Hydrogen is great for the economy as well as the environment

Future of energy

I’m really pleased to see this week’s publication of the Hydrogen Taskforce’s Economic Impact Assessment report as it adds another dimension to the case for hydrogen as a key part of the UK’s future energy choices – that dimension is jobs, something that will be very welcome as we head into the proposed green recovery from COVID-19.
    
The report highlights that around 75,000 jobs could be created across the whole value chain for hydrogen. We have previously spoken mainly about scaling up the production of hydrogen – particularly as part of the North West’s HyNet project – but this of course brings with it aspects such as storage, transmission, distribution, and all the support jobs around industrial and domestic appliances at the point of use. A decision to focus investment on hydrogen as part of the government’s future energy strategy is one that will pay dividends for decades to come in terms of new jobs created, existing jobs protected and the potential for income generation from exporting our expertise worldwide.
 
Support for HyNet North West would help to reanimate regional economies that have been hit hard during the pandemic and that may otherwise take several years to recover without this new focus on innovation and a new form of industry. It’s worth restating that the HyNet project has been called “the leading hydrogen and CCUS project in the UK today” in the APPG report from July this year, not least because of the natural and man-made infrastructure in Liverpool Bay and the local salt caverns, coupled with the overwhelming support from regional industry and politicians. And at £0.9bn it is a cost-effective decarbonisation option in the UK today – surely it’s time for the government to give this the green light.
   
Fossil fuels have to be removed from the way we live our lives – at home, at work and in the vehicles we use. We are great supporters of renewable electricity generated by wind and solar farms and they will play a major part in doing this. But even they won’t be able to meet all of these needs on their own. Hydrogen has a key role to play in achieving the crucial final 20% that will get us from 80% carbon free to 100% carbon free and there is much more it can do alongside renewables, particularly for UK industry whose characteristics make it particularly well suited to a hydrogen-based decarbonisation pathway, as has been identified by both the Committee on Climate Change and BEIS.

Indeed, creating hydrogen infrastructure adds even more value to the renewables sector particularly as the cost of offshore wind has fallen 50% since 2015. Surplus renewable electricity which could otherwise be wasted, can be used with electrolysers to produce green hydrogen which can be piped around the country in the existing gas network to where it is needed. One energy supports the other in a matrix of green provision.

As Jacob Young MP said, the UK is well on the way to being a world leader in hydrogen technology and it has a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on this expertise through investment and policy support. Imagine a situation in which we are not only energy independent but also exporting our know-how and our surplus energy to customers around the world. There is much to consider in this new report and even more proof in the compelling case for hydrogen. 

Dr Angela Needle 
Director of Strategy, Cadent 

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