Industry welcomes UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy

Infrastructure sector welcomes UK Hydrogen Strategy, but looks forward to seeing further details emerge.

Leading figures from the infrastructure and consultancy sectors have warmly welcomed the UK government’s first ever Hydrogen Strategy, describing it as an important milestone and the first step in establishing hydrogen as a key part of the UK’s future energy plans in the drive towards achieving net zero.

However, while warmly positive towards the general strategy, the industry is still looking forward to seeing further details emerge over the coming months.

Here is a selection of industry reaction to the newly announced strategy:

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “This strategy provides a platform for hydrogen to take its place as part of the solution for decarbonising our economy. The proposed twin-track approach to both blue and green hydrogen development presents a realistic pathway to meet the breadth of potential uses across different parts of the economy including industry, transport and power. As recognised by government, it is vital that we concentrate on truly low carbon hydrogen production, and therefore the proposed development of technical standards is welcome.

“The big question is how to drive down the costs of hydrogen production, and its relationship with the low cost of natural gas. That will only happen by scaling up production, so alongside the positive measures to kick start the sector there needs to be a longer term funding model that provides investor confidence in the same way the UK has successfully achieved in the offshore wind sector. Government will also need to decide how best to ensure the cost of natural gas reflects the cost of carbon.

“Clarity on where the costs will fall in such a model, and how they will be distributed fairly, is needed soon in order to secure industry and public confidence and support. 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.”

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, said: “For a long time hydrogen and electrification were seen as alternatives but this Strategy rightly shows that both will be needed to deliver net zero. The UK has some potential strengths in this field given its energy heritage but turning this potential into reality at an acceptable cost will require government to flesh out the detail to give businesses confidence to invest. Hydrogen can play a key role in decarbonising transport in particular.  It will also help with heating in homes, though public acceptance will be important here.”

James Watt, hydrogen consultant at WSP, said: “Hydrogen will play a key role in decarbonising the energy, transport and wider industrial sectors. The launch of the UK Government’s first Hydrogen Strategy is a very welcome development in the Ten Point Plan and it also signals good news for the green skills agenda through the forthcoming Hydrogen Sector Development Action Plan. However, it is important that we continue to push our boundaries by innovating and capitalising on the huge opportunities provided by low carbon hydrogen.

“The government lays out an ambitious set of targets under the strategy. Key assessments, updates, consultations and models have to be delivered as promised to enable the potential of Hydrogen to be delivered. Both in the approach to COP26 and in its wake, the UK should lead by example on the global stage in generating low-carbon pathways and realising our net zero ambitions.”

David Clarke, technical director of the Railway Industry Association, said: “It is positive to see the government publish today a Hydrogen Strategy, setting out how it plans to develop hydrogen economies in the UK. Network Rail has identified that up to 1,300 kilometres of railway lines will require hydrogen trains in order to achieve the government’s ‘Net Zero by 2050’ goal. Yet, as we say in RIA’s Rail Decarbonisation Campaign 21, if we are to successfully decarbonise our rail network we need to get started today, in 2021, both electrifying railways lines and beginning the production of hydrogen and battery trains.

“As the government considers the roll out of this strategy, and the use of hydrogen in decarbonising the economy, we ask them to heed our ask to commit now to fleet orders of hydrogen rolling stock – in order to support green jobs and investment up and down the country.”

Tim Cooper, client development director for water, energy and environment at Arcadis, said: “The government’s hydrogen plan is certainly ambitious but, given the imperative of the UK’s net-zero target, will be an essential component in driving change. By financially backing the move to a low carbon economy the level of commitment is clear, but we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge. Carbon intensive industries like construction will need to work collectively to pioneer hydrogen innovation, and this is where the development of carbon capture, usage and storage infrastructure will play a key role.

“New hydrogen production plants will convert natural gas to hydrogen with carbon capture or use renewable energy to produce hydrogen from water using electrolysis. These will be crucial when it comes to rolling out the benefits of hydrogen more widely. However, alongside new infrastructure - which can take as long as two years just to gain planning consent, including meeting environmental requirements - if we are to succeed in meeting the hydrogen production target of 1GW by 2025, we also need to look at repurposing existing assets.

“Ultimately we are at the very start of the journey, and while today’s government announcement is welcome news, as an industry we need to move quickly to ensure we are ready to capitalise on the full scale of the opportunity.”

Clare Jackson, head of innovation – low carbon, at Gemserv, said: “The Hydrogen Strategy published today fires the starting gun on the scaling of hydrogen solutions in the UK. This is great news for the industry, but it is just the first step in a very long journey to establishing hydrogen as a key part of our future energy systems and enable the UK to cost-effectively deliver net zero”.

Nick Cooper, chief executive of Storegga, said: “Hydrogen is crucial to rapidly support our low carbon transition and is a major tool in the UK reaching Net Zero. The ambition of the UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy is encouraging and more definition of the details in the 10 Point Plan is welcome.”

John Mullen, UK energy market director, Ramboll, said: “What this strategy will finally deliver, and what is really needed, is the business assurance that investment in hydrogen infrastructure and technology is a good bet. Hydrogen presents us with an excellent opportunity to repurpose and make use of existing infrastructure already in place for fossil fuels to support a burgeoning new frontier in the UK energy sector.

“However as a developing market the government should be seizing the opportunity by providing investment and the development of a concrete action plan now, rather than making us wait until 2022. Transitioning away from gas will require investment, and we need to ensure the support is there for upskilling and learning if we are to reach their 2030 goals. Effective regulatory frameworks and financial incentives are also needed for hydrogen to work in synergy with existing technologies.”

Pointing out the limitations of relying on Hydrogen alone, Mullen said: “Hydrogen is often presented as a silver-bullet solution to the UK’s carbon and climate concerns, but relying on it alone will not solve the UK’s challenge when it comes to the challenge of meeting Net Zero. Although a key part of the puzzle for parts of the energy industry, it will only hold around 5-10% of the UK’s energy mix and we cannot take our eye off broader investment and support for renewable energies.”

Professor Joe Howe, chair of the North West Hydrogen Alliance, said: “This is a critical step forward for the development of a world leading hydrogen economy in the UK. While this sends a strong message to industry and investors that hydrogen is an integral part of our low carbon future, what’s important now is that government delivers on the strategy by supporting projects like HyNet North West. We particularly welcome the commitment to developing a Hydrogen Sector Development Action Plan to ensure that the huge economic benefits from hydrogen are kept in the UK, supporting our businesses and creating new jobs. If we’re to bring people along with us on this hydrogen revolution then now’s the time to start raising public awareness of hydrogen and how it can help us reduce our carbon emissions and protect our planet.”

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