Rollout plan for a UK hydrogen economy

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The UK’s energy sector is regarded as one of the most innovative and increasingly ‘cleanest’ energy industries in the world. A paper published by the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UKHFCA) highlights the importance of the UK government taking action now if it wishes to remain the leader in hydrogen energy and continue spearheading the global decarbonisation movement.

With COP26 fast approaching, The Case for Green Hydrogen paper uncovers a series of critical factors the UK government should consider in the lead-up to the global event and beyond, including:

  • How hydrogen plays a crucial role in the UK’s decarbonisation journey and what is actually needed to achieve net-zero by 2050;
  • A series of policy recommendations (oven-ready, short and medium-term opportunities);
  • A clear roadmap from 2020 to 2050 – the first of its kind to date – that illustrates what is required to develop a significant green hydrogen industrial base in the UK.

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Within the paper, the UKHFCA urges the UK government to consider the long-term economic opportunities that hydrogen presents, notably around how Britain can become the world-leading exporter of electrolysis and green hydrogen technologies. This is especially important given the EU’s competing ambitious and green hydrogen goals, as well as the acceleration of hydrogen programmes in other territories including Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States.

However, industry leaders and hydrogen experts across the UK have outlined their concerns that treasury will repeat past mistakes and risk becoming a net importer, ultimately costing the economy, British jobs and the UK’s position as a global leader in hydrogen.

This issue was seen in 2014 when discussions around the EU’s introduction of renewable energy targets and goals were being debated in the UK, with various UK government representatives in strong opposition (despite a report highlighting the opportunity to create 568,000 more jobs across Europe). This resulted in treasury failing to act swiftly, pushing high volumes of manufacturing jobs into other jurisdictions and causing the UK to rely on importing the technology.

Commenting on the paper, Chris Jackson, chair of the UKHFCA, said: “We are at a pivotal moment in the UK’s energy history, with many leaders, experts and industries recognising the benefits that hydrogen presents for both the UK economy and the decarbonisation agenda alike. This paper clearly outlines the most effective way the private and public sectors can work together to decarbonise – never before has a roadmap been presented to government for hydrogen, and never before has it been clearer to follow.

“In the wake of Brexit and as we emerge from the pandemic, the Government must realise what could happen if they ignore what industry is telling them. The British economy has a huge opportunity to rebuild through clean energy, and hydrogen sits at the core of this.”

The UK government faces one of the most ambitious energy transition pathways ever attempted by a modern economy, a move that involves a radical transition of not only supplying new energy sources for homes and transport (and the infrastructure required to support this), but equally a shift in skills across the British labour market.

Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power plc, added: “The global energy transition is already underway with Governments around the world setting out their support strategies to achieve net zero. Green hydrogen is central to these strategies and the UK is currently a world leader in its production and use. With the right support mechanisms in place, this country has everything necessary to create a new multi-billion pound industry.”

Also commenting on the paper, Celia Greaves, CEO of the UKHFCA, said: “There is a window of opportunity for the UK to stake its place in this market, providing a critical path to post-COVID recovery which also supports the Government’s levelling up agenda. The Case for Green Hydrogen sets out the steps along this path for green hydrogen’s growth, and we look forward to working with Government to make this happen.”