My previous blog on hydrogen, published just four months ago, broached the question of whether the hydrogen revolution in the UK had finally begun. In this short space of time an increasing number of hydrogen projects have come to the fore, giving the sector every reason to be positive about its future.
The potential to use hydrogen as an alternative household gas supply has progressed, with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) receiving planning permission to use an area of land in the Tees Valley region to carry out the world’s first tests. While new proposals for the gas fired Rocksavage facility in Cheshire could see the power plant become the first of its kind to produce electricity using a blend of hydrogen and natural gas.
There’s also been a positive step towards realising Zero Carbon Humber’s vision to decarbonise the UK’s largest industrial region, following the Planning Inspectorate’s acceptance of SSE Thermal and Equinor’s application for a development consent order. The energy giants hope to build what would be one of the nation’s first power stations to be equipped with carbon capture technology.
We’re also seeing advances in other hard to decarbonise sectors such as transport, with the Mayor of London launching England’s first fleet of 20 hydrogen double decker buses just last month.
Despite this progress, as well as wider recognition within the industry that hydrogen has moved higher up the political agenda, a recent survey of industry leaders on the progress and potential of the UK hydrogen sector to date suggests doubts remain.
The results of campaign group Hydrogen Strategy Now’s survey found 61 percent are not confident the UK Hydrogen Strategy will create a ‘world leading’ hydrogen market, and a further 49 percent believe the lack of a strategy has stalled or reduced valuable investments in the UK hydrogen sector. The publication of hydrogen strategies by the European Commission as well as numerous individual European countries in 2020 has put Europe ahead of the game in the race to lead the market, accelerating investment through clear government support.
On top of this, 78 percent believe the 5GW hydrogen production set out in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan could be more ambitious. Chris Jackson, chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, believes that the government needs to set world leading targets in order to show real commitment to becoming a leader in the hydrogen market.
The industry has made it plain that the government needs to set a faster pace and raise its targets. The imminent publication of the UK Hydrogen Strategy offers a chance to restore the industry’s faith in its future potential and build on the promising progress already made so far this year. Only time will tell if this is the turning point that cements hydrogen as a major player in our future energy mix and puts the UK back in the race to be a global leader in the market.
 State of the Hydrogen Nation 2021 Hydrogen Strategy Now June 2021
Ellie Hainsworth is an account executive at Camargue