Hydrogen has dominated the headlines this week, first with Queensland unveiling a slew of hydrogen projects aimed at making it a “superpower” and then New South Wales performing a classic show of one-upmanship with its $3bn green hydrogen strategy.

The latter is certainly ambitious, a package of exemptions, incentives and the development of a hydrogen refuelling station network across the state that is aimed at attracting up to $80bn worth of investment.

Along with its previous $70m commitment to develop hydrogen hubs in the Illawarra and Hunter regions, the strategy is aimed at growing the state’s economy by more than $600m by 2030 and putting NSW in a leadership position.

Let’s not mention how Fortescue Metals founder and now hydrogen evangelist Andrew Forrest has his fingers in both pies (and is apparently flagging that he might invest in Tasmanian hydrogen developments as well).

Rather, we will note that the latest announcements highlight that it is the Australian states that are taking the lead in taking our energy mix into the zero emissions future.

It is certainly not the federal government and its fractured ‘technology-led’ roadmap that promotes investment into blue hydrogen as well as carbon capture and storage that appear more like an excuse to keep fossil fuels in the game by (hopefully) making them greener.

One can also hope that the incentives will encourage greater research and development into outcomes that can drive greater adoption of the gas.

Why hydrogen R&D?

There are several avenues where R&D can help do so.

First is transportation, an important area given the strong interest in developing hydrogen as an export product that could potentially replace liquefied natural gas.

Hydrogen can only be compressed at very low temperatures, meaning that significant energy is required just to make it viable for transportation.

Some potential options include converting hydrogen into ammonia, which benefits from being easily transportable with an existing, mature ecosystem that can be expanded quickly.

Research into making it cheaper to produce green hydrogen and improving the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells could also combine to make it cost competitive with fossil fuels, which would play a significant part towards increasing its adoption.

Greater private investment

It is also not hard to envision that New South Wales’ incentives could result in more ASX newcomers and existing companies pivoting towards becoming green hydrogen plays.

While this is certainly not a simple step to take, junior companies are often pioneers in emerging fields, though not all will make an impact.

But those that do are likely to drive adoption of the gas and either become major players in the field or be a quick way for larger energy companies to penetrate the market using the tried and tested method of dangling obscene amounts of money (aka acquisitions).

It is still too early to tell if this will indeed be the case, but as they say, time will tell.