The UK government has laid out its first ever Hydrogen Strategy that, it claims, will unlock tens of thousands of jobs, billions of pounds in investment and new export opportunities while creating a thriving low carbon hydrogen sector in the UK over the next decade and beyond.
The UK’s first-ever Hydrogen Strategy follows the commitments laid out in the prime minister’s 10-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution by setting the foundation for how the UK government will work with industry to meet its ambition for 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – the equivalent of replacing natural gas in powering around 3million UK homes each year as well as powering transport and businesses, particularly heavy industry.
Ministers say a booming, UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900m and create over 9,000 high-quality jobs by 2030, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to £13bn by 2050. By 2030, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonising polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, HGV lorries and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels. Low-carbon hydrogen provides opportunities for UK companies and workers across our industrial heartlands.
With government analysis suggesting that 20-35% of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050 could be hydrogen-based, this new energy source could be critical to meet UK targets of net zero emissions by 2050 and cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 – a view shared by the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee. In the UK, a low-carbon hydrogen economy could deliver emissions savings equivalent to the carbon captured by 700 million trees by 2032 and is a key pillar of capitalising on cleaner energy sources as the UK moves away from fossil fuels.
Business & energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today marks the start of the UK’s hydrogen revolution. This home-grown clean energy source has the potential to transform the way we power our lives and will be essential to tackling climate change and reaching Net Zero. With the potential to provide a third of the UK’s energy in the future, our strategy positions the UK as first in the global race to ramp up hydrogen technology and seize the thousands of jobs and private investment that come with it.”
Energy & climate change minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Today’s Hydrogen Strategy sends a strong signal globally that we are committed to building a thriving low carbon hydrogen economy that could deliver hundreds of thousands of high-quality green jobs, helps millions of homes transition to green energy, support our key industrial heartlands to move away from fossil fuels and bring in significant investment.”
The UK Hydrogen Strategy includes:
- Outlining a ‘twin track’ approach to supporting multiple technologies including ‘green’ electrolytic and ‘blue’ carbon capture-enabled hydrogen production, and committing to providing further detail in 2022 on the government’s production strategy;
- Collaborating with industry to develop a UK standard for low carbon hydrogen giving certainty to producers and users that the hydrogen the UK produces is consistent with net zero while supporting the deployment of hydrogen across the country;
- Undertaking a review to support the development of the necessary network and storage infrastructure to underpin a thriving hydrogen sector;
- Working with industry to assess the safety, technical feasibility, and cost effectiveness of mixing 20% hydrogen into the existing gas supply. Doing so could deliver a 7% emissions reduction on natural gas;
- Launching a hydrogen sector development action plan in early 2022 setting out how the government will support companies to secure supply chain opportunities, skills and jobs in hydrogen.
Leading industry figures from the infrastructure and consultancy sectors have warmly welcomed the strategy, but are waiting for further details to emerge over the coming months.
Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “This strategy is an important milestone, and industry will now look forward to seeing details of the business model, funding mechanism and sector development plan in the coming months.”
Antony Green, hydrogen director at National Grid, said: “The transition to a green economy will require a mix of technologies and hydrogen will play a vital role. This strategy signals the UK’s commitment to hydrogen and provides the certainty needed to boost consumer and investor confidence and support commercial solutions. Importantly, unlocking the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy solution requires significant pace and innovation to scale up production, and the guidance from government today will be key to triggering the investment and buy-in needed to achieve this.”
Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the CBI, said: “With hydrogen key to unlocking decarbonisation across carbon-intensive sectors, as well as stimulating high levels of skilled green jobs, the government’s Hydrogen Strategy is a key milestone in the delivery of the UK’s 10 Point Plan. As a leader in high skilled manufacturing, and with an extensive legacy in energy production, the UK stands perfectly positioned to capitalise on the opportunities provided by hydrogen. As the countdown to COP26 continues, hydrogen is an area where the UK can lead by example on the global stage, showcasing the value of strong partnerships between government and the private sector on the road to reducing emissions.”
Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of Energy UK, said: “Hydrogen and CCUS are going to be incredibly valuable for sectors that will be difficult to decarbonise with electricity – and so we welcome that today’s Hydrogen Strategy takes an economy-wide approach to developing these innovative technologies. The UK has real potential for hydrogen and CCUS, both of which can deliver new skilled jobs, particularly in places where the UK already has a proud industrial and energy heritage.”