EXAMINING THE UK HYDROGEN STRATEGY
The UK Hydrogen Strategy sets out the roadmap to developing a low carbon hydrogen sector in the UK with 5GW production capacity by 2030. The strategy sets out expectations and opportunities to encourage the production, distribution, storage and use of hydrogen and outlines a roadmap for the hydrogen economy to develop and scale up over the coming years.
Examining the aspirations outlined in the recently published strategy, Dr. Kerry-Ann Adamson shares her thoughts on the future of UK hydrogen.
Note that this article uses the term hydrogen as shorthand for low and zero carbon hydrogen, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
First of all, let’s be clear that no matter what the UK Hydrogen Strategy came out with some groups would be very vocally against it. As an industry which is far from normalised, and with such a diverse set of interests, stakeholders, evangelists, opportunists, and some actual businesses, anything on hydrogen will be decried by at least some within our own industry. Never mind the voices from the anti-hydrogen lobby!
The brewhaha over the UK Hydrogen Strategy centres around the fact that it is clear that the plan is to take nothing off the table and to keep everything, as far as possible, open until we see the market settle down into a normal everyday industry. The timing out to mid 2030s is an incredible sensible approach as there is so much we still need to do to turn this into an actual global market. Even though brown and grey hydrogen is a billion-dollar industry, it is a specialised industry. One that to date has been controlled by the gas industry and with the documented and adhered to safety and control measures needed in place. Taking this molecule and unrolling into the everyday world with everyday folks, into homes, cars, tractors, steel plants, boats, the energy storage markets etc etc, and making sure it is safe, and decarbonising it at the same time is no mean feat.
The largest points of diverge with other strategies is the move to use carbon intensity, instead of colours, when talking about supporting hydrogen. Personally, this has me salivating at the opportunities this represents for digital innovation-based businesses, but for others this is a step too far. The feasibility of using carbon intensity is challenging, but doable. It will require new businesses to step up, but the multiplier effect of the economic gain could be significant.
The markets outlined are no surprise. Anyone following what is being talked about in the UK will know already about the push for hydrogen in the home, as well as potential for using hydrogen in grid balancing, frequency response, transport and industry. The timing for roll out of this is a mixed bag of short, medium, long and ever longer term. For some sectors this gives the government time to sort through the reams of policy and support mechanisms that will needed for safe mass deployment and for others the strategy highlights the short, in policy terms at least, turn around time being worked on.
What this strategy has done is to throw open the opportunity space. It sets the direction of travel, for the UK government at least and what it can do to support the industry.
The strategy is built on an understanding that we need every tool in the box to decarbonise, and that some of these tools are still some way away from market ready.
The potential to UK plc from this strategy cannot be overestimated. With the right smarts, innovation, desire, appetite and business acumen UK plc could easily carve out a place at the top table of the global hydrogen industry.
But it takes work. Graft. Ideas. Not just copy and paste business models. It will require dropping of the hobbyist approach adopted by some towards the industry. It takes a focus on profit and results. And these are things that no strategy can create.
Dr. Kerry-Ann Adamson works with all interested stakeholders to identify and leverage business opportunities in the rapidly evolving cleantech energy and transport sectors. She has specialised in hydrogen and fuel cells for the last 20 years.