Lack of UK hydrogen strategy is holding back industry

Article by Amanda Doyle

CONCERNS have been raised by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that the lack of a clear hydrogen strategy for the UK will hamper efforts to decarbonise heavy industry and reach net zero.

Philip Dunne, Chair of the EAC, wrote a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma highlighting issues that were raised during an EAC evidence session that was held in July. The letter said that UK is ahead of other countries in terms of technology and understanding when it comes to developing the hydrogen economy, but that it is behind in terms of strategy. For example, the EU adopted a hydrogen strategy in July with the aim to increase renewable hydrogen capacity from 1 GW to 6 GW by 2024, rising to 40 GW by 2030.

The Committee for Climate Change (CCC) noted in its progress report to Parliament in June that the Government needed long term policies for industrial decarbonisation and a strategy for the hydrogen economy.  

The Energy Systems Catapult told the EAC that sectors that are difficult to decarbonise offer the best opportunities for hydrogen where existing alternatives are not cost effective. Hydrogen could be used in a number of ways, such as blending with natural gas or powering industrial sites.

The EAC welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of £139m (US$184m) in funding to cut emissions in heavy industry, but said that a much larger investment is needed. The EAC highlighted comments from the industry that said that projects need more than grant funding to operate at scale. Investments also need to be aligned with strategy to ensure that the investments are coordinated. In addition, the Hydrogen Taskforce said in March that the Government needs to commit £1bn in funding for the large-scale deployment of hydrogen.

The letter also noted that if hydrogen is going to continue to be produced from fossil fuels, then it is essential to do so with carbon capture and storage (CCS). It noted the Government’s £800m commitment in March to establish at least two CCS clusters by 2030, but pointed out that a report from a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee last year said there needs to be at least three established by 2025.

Dunne said: “We must end our reliance on dirty fuels and hydrogen could be the key to realising our low-carbon potential. The UK's strengths in innovation, technology and skills can be utilised to champion hydrogen as a major player in our energy mix – but the Government must pave the way. The Committee heard time and again during evidence that the UK's lack of a hydrogen strategy by Government is holding back efforts to make scaling up hydrogen production a reality."

Dunne noted that the National Infrastructure Strategy, which is due to be published in the Autumn, would be an opportunity for the Government to announce a hydrogen strategy and reaffirm its net zero commitment.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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