BLOG Hydrogen is ready to power the UK’s green economy

NWHA Chair Professor Joe Howe gives his take on the Hydrogen Taskforce’s recent Economic Impact Assessment (EIA).

The Hydrogen Taskforce recently released its study of the economic impacts of hydrogen, revealing the epic scale through which hydrogen could transform not only UK energy systems, but job opportunities across the supply chain as well.

According to the taskforce, hydrogen solutions have a critical role to play in helping the UK meet its net zero targets, and in creating economic growth which will kickstart the green recovery.

As we look to rebuild after Covid-19, where unemployment has been predicted to reach a shocking 14.8%, there is a huge opportunity to deliver sustainable increases in GVA as well as jobs.

The size of the prize is significant, with a future hydrogen and equipment market worth an estimated £2 trillion globally by 2050, supporting 30 million new jobs.

The Hydrogen Taskforce is calling on Government to make hydrogen the heart of the green recovery programme, positioning the UK alongside countries such as Germany who are pumping 9 billion Euros into green hydrogen solutions. Scaling up our approach could be worth £18bn to the UK economy and create 75,000 jobs by 2035.

The hydrogen delivery ecosystem means we’ll need an array of expertise with opportunities in production, distribution, storage, transport and infrastructure. Downstream, the need for new infrastructure in transport and domestic heating also opens up another realm of job-growing potential in manufacturing and installation.

If we move quickly, as the Hydrogen Taskforce points out, we could take advantage of not only decarbonising our own energy systems, but exporting our hydrogen, both blue and green, to assist across Europe.

Tied in with our already world-leading offshore wind capacity, we have the chance to create a sizable green hydrogen production industry with potential for meeting both domestic and overseas demand.

With the production of blue hydrogen we can tap into the experience of an oil and gas sector with 300,000 professionals in the UK leveraging existing expertise and thereby growing and protecting jobs.

The North West Hydrogen Alliance has come together to put forward the region as a leader in the growth of the hydrogen economy, and the Hydrogen Taskforce acknowledges the particular importance the North will have to play, with offshore wind and CO2 storage particularly concentrated in this area. This also means investment in hydrogen can grow the economy in places which have also been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to move to hydrogen as a low carbon energy source. Projects are already underway, like HyNet in the North West, to look at how the existing gas network can be repurposed to transport hydrogen. The UK has changed its gas sources before, in the 1960s switching from town gas (produced from coal and which ironically contained around 50% hydrogen!) to North Sea gas. We’ve done it before, and using the expertise and experience we already have, we can do it again.