AS I SEE IT
The UK could be a world leader in hydrogen if it acts now, says LORD OATES
The Prime Minister has pledged the UK will “invest massively in hydrogen”. The time for him to deliver on these words is now.
The global hydrogen economy is set to be worth $2.5trn and create 30 million jobs by 2050. It is little wonder why governments in Germany, France, Portugal, Japen, South Korea, Australia are investing billions into their domestic hydrogen economies. The world-wide hydrogen race is on. The UK was slow out of the blocks on batteries and wind. We can’t afford to be slow on hydrogen, too.
Global success is within our grasp. The UK has best-in-class academic skills, world-first hydrogen boilers and buses, and we are building the first ever hydrogen giga factory in Sheffield. We are also blessed with plenty of wind and water, the key ingredients to produce clean, green hydrogen.
The private sector is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government. Business wants to invest £1.5bn in ‘shovel-ready’ hydrogen projects, but ministers need to make some big and bold statements, underpinned by a UK-wide hydrogen strategy, to provide confidence and unlock rapid progress forward.
The time for tests and trials of hydrogen vehicles and for heating is over; to steal on march on our international competitors we must now move to mass use, commercialisation and drive costs quickly to maximise export potential.
The buzzphrase in Westminster at the minute is ‘moonshot’, so let’s take the ambition, boldness and confidence to invest public funds of the moonshot concept and apply it to hydrogen. Let’s aim for the UK to create the world’s first trillion-dollar hydrogen business.
There are many credible, achievable moonshot options to explore. Japan and South Korea are building hydrogen cities, let’s convert an entire region, such as the Tees Valley, to hydrogen covering all cars, trains, taxis, vans, emergency vehicles, bin lorries and heating by 2030. These could all be powered by ‘Made in the UK’ green hydrogen energy.
The Government is looking at hydrogen for aviation fuel, why not seek to convert an entire airport to hydrogen power, not just its planes?
‘MPs and Peers of all parties and parts of the country believe that this is the right move for the UK, and now is the right time to act’
As we take back control of our fishing waters, we could set a world-first ambition of a zero emission, green fleet of boats, cargo ships and even the Thames Clipper that goes back and forth outside Parliament throughout the day. Clean boats for clean seas.
Only two types of zero emission bus exist – hydrogen and battery. We have three bus manufacturers in the UK, all make a hydrogen bus. China makes 99% of the world’s battery electric buses. Let’s put Government investment into a technology where we can win, rather than play catch up.
Over recent months, the level of parliamentary support for hydrogen has soared. MPs and Peers of all parties and parts of the country believe that this is the right move for the UK, and now is the right time to act. Hydrogen ticks all the boxes the Prime Minister is looking for – jobs, ‘Red Wall’ economic rejuvenation, Net Zero, energy security and global trade opportunities.
It is reported that the Prime Minister will soon make a speech on routes to Net Zero. He should put hydrogen front and centre of this and unlock a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the UK to lead a multi-trillion dollar industry and excite the crowds with some remarkable clean, green, UK-made hydrogen moonshot projects.
Lord Oates is Liberal Democrat spokesman on energy and climate change