NEWS: Industry leaders call on Government to support a clean growth supply chain in the UK

Business leaders across the North West came together to discuss the huge supply chain opportunities which the UK’s transition to net zero will deliver.

Hosted by Peel L&P Environmental and the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA), the Energy Industries Council (EIC) event showcased some of the projects already happening in the North West to decarbonise the region – including HyNet, Protos and HyDeploy.

The business community heard how, with appropriate support from Government, £4 billion of investment and 33,000 jobs are expected to result from the North West’s ambition to become the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.

Delivering the keynote address, Myles Kitcher, Managing Director, Peel L&P Environmental said: “This is the year when things are really going to happen. The opportunities for business across the UK and particularly here in the North West are huge. Meeting our climate change objectives is going to require innovation and new technologies, which means more skills, more jobs and more investment. It would be an absolute failure if we end up importing these skills, so we’re calling on Government to act to ensure we have the supply chain here in the UK.”

A clear message from the event was that while the scale of the opportunity is huge, Government needs to act to ensure the supply chain opportunities remain in the UK. Attendees heard how failures in the past meant that while the UK is the world’s largest operator of offshore windfarms, only 50% of windfarm project costs are spent with UK companies.

Stuart Broadley, Chief Executive, Energy Industries Council said: “The UK is the world’s largest producer of offshore wind, but sadly policy and funding gaps ten years ago means today we have to import most of this technology. With new opportunities highlighted by zero carbon legislation, the UK has the chance to learn from offshore wind mistakes, and make sure we not only become world leaders in hydrogen production and CCUS but also put in place adequate policies and funding to root this technology in our home-grown supply chain and universities, and attract FDI, to ensure we become leading zero carbon technology exporters to the world, not just consumers and importers.”

The North West Energy and Hydrogen Cluster is being led by the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT), with support from Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region Mayors and the Cheshire & Warrington LEP.

Emma Degg, Chief Executive, North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) said:

“The political environment is right for this to happen now. Both nationally and regionally there is no lack of ambition and we’re going to see continued investment in clean growth. In the North West we’re rising to the challenge of becoming the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030. As business leaders if you’re not already doing something to contribute to this agenda you should be. This isn’t an opportunity for the future, businesses need to get ready now as it’s coming fast.”

A key theme of the event was the opportunity presented by hydrogen. Attendees heard about HyNet, the most advanced hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) project in the UK which could see hydrogen blended into the gas grid and piped into homes and businesses by 2024.

Commenting on the hydrogen opportunity, Professor Joseph Howe, Chair of the NWHA and Executive Director of the Thornton Energy Institute at the University of Chester, said “Not only do we have the chance to deliver billions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs here in the UK, we have the opportunity to become world leaders and export these skills all over the world. We will need hydrogen and carbon capture and storage if we have any hope of meeting the UK’s legally binding net zero targets. The opportunity is there for us to grasp and here in the North West we plan to do exactly that. There are projects, like HyNet, which will make hydrogen a reality and they are happening right now.”

The NWHA welcomes two new members hoping to benefit from the huge supply chain opportunities on offer from hydrogen. Thyson Technology Limited, based in Ellesmere Port, is an instrumentation and engineering systems provider. The company is currently involved in the HyDeploy project which is trailing the blending of hydrogen into the gas network in Keele, with further trials planned for the North West.

Neil Stuchbury, Commercial Director at Thyson said: “There will be many challenges ahead on the path to net zero but at Thyson we’ve got a growing skills base in the North West that can help deliver a hydrogen network. Working on projects such as HyNet, we’re investing time and resource to this important agenda which will develop skills and jobs across the region. Being part of the North West Hydrogen Alliance means we’re at the heart of what’s happening and can share our technical expertise and support.”

Engineering and development consultancy Mott MacDonald has also joined the NWHA. The consultancy is supporting the UK Government on its proposed hydrogen infrastructure development programme to inform policy and funding decisions. Other recent hydrogen projects include assisting hydrogen production associated with nuclear facilities and early stage facilitation of the process for a pilot hydrogen energy system at Keele University as well as various related international projects.

Prem Mahi, Development and Innovation Director – Energy, at Mott MacDonald said: “We see the NWHA as a great partnership for us and look forward to the opportunities it will bring. We are committed to technical excellence and innovation and have much insight to share from our projects in the UK and globally. Together, the NWHA has the right connections to really push the agenda to make hydrogen energy a working reality in the UK.”