As recently as a year ago the general public were relatively unaware about the potential of green Hydrogen as a source of clean energy with which to decarbonise our economy. For years it has felt like the only solution for tackling emissions is battery electrification. Perhaps this is because that has been the message being constantly pumped out by the man able to dominate the world press, and who coincidentally happens to be the world’s richest person due to his battery business, Tesla.
With such momentum behind that juggernaut it must be hard for Civil Servants, (responsible for keeping MP’s up to speed on real solutions for cleaning up the environment), to do anything other than ‘go with the battery flow’, rather than standing up for the equally valid alternative solutions, that are so crucial to tackling the emissions crisis. But luckily science and engineering are not swayed by PR.
Just as fast as the pandemic spread around the globe, so too has the commitment to clean up our planet, and with that the spotlight has moved from batteries onto green Hydrogen, an energy source that is now being used in transport, manufacturing, home heating and many other applications.
Green hydrogen is produced by splitting H20 into its separate components (Hydrogen and Oxygen) using energy from a renewable source such as wind turbines. This production process is not reliant on the grid, or carbon burning of any sort, giving the resulting Hydrogen that is captured its ‘green’ credential. The process is called electrolysis, and plans for new electrolysis plants have sprung up in the U.K. in the last 12 months.
Although the U.K. have been somewhat slower than many countries in kickstarting its ‘Hydrogen Economy’ (Germany invested 9 billion euros in theirs in 2020) there has been a seismic shift that will have made even Elon Musk gasp. It is impossible to miss the repeated name-checking of ‘Hydrogen’ in Boris Johnson’s recent 10 Point Plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, and the government have now committed to releasing a U.K. Hydrogen Strategy in the first half of 2021.
Just as we now have a positive roadmap for navigating our way around Covid19, so too must we turn our attention, energy and support to the far greater threat of climate change. Complaining about a problem without having a solution has long been a thorn in the side of climate change campaigners; but now rather than simply protesting the chant can be a positive one, supporting the Hydrogen industry; the solution for creating hundreds of thousands of ‘green jobs’ whilst propelling our economy towards net-zero.
The critical timing of this can’t be lost on the general public. The UN Cop26 Climate Conference in Glasgow is only 9 months away, whereupon the eyes of the world will be on the U.K. seeking reassurance that we are doing all we can to lower our emissions to reach Net-Zero, never shying away from confrontation with big fossil fuel industries in order to change the way we operate for the sake of future generations. And so it should be no coincidence that the likes of Shell, BP, major gas companies and the transport sector have all launched Hydrogen projects in the last 12 months.
Aberdeen now has the world’s first zero-emission Hydrogen double-deckers in operation on its streets, manufactured by clean transport pioneers Wrightbus in Northern Ireland. Customers in Aberdeen will experience quiet and clean bus travel, proud in the knowledge that their chosen method of transport emits nothing other than water vapour.
The NHS is trialling hydrogen-powered ambulances in London later in the year, and this announcement came in the same week that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) publicised its testing of hydrogen fuel cell electric prototypes in the UK in 2021.
Building materials giant Hanson UK are installing a renewable hydrogen generation unit at its plant in Port Talbot, with technical support from Swansea University’s Energy Safety Research Institute, and financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
BEIS have just announced that the UK’s first hydrogen boiler and hob fitted homes will be complete by April. These Government funded semi-detached houses in Gateshead will use 100% hydrogen for cooking appliances and heating.
Every day sees a flurry of new Hydrogen projects being launched all over the world. But in recent weeks several influential bodies have urged the Government to release the Hydrogen Strategy sooner rather than later so that the U.K. Hydrogen Revolution can properly get underway.
So is this what a ‘tipping point’ feels like?
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