Exclusive: Hydrogen essential to achieving net zero in the UK

Exclusive: Hydrogen essential to achieving net zero in the UK

For Redcar MP Anna Turley, tackling the climate change emergency is the greatest challenge facing the international community. The world is already experiencing the impact of a changing climate and Turley stresses drastic action must be taken if we are to meet Net Zero targets and stop further damage to the planet.

This is why she established the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hydrogen – a cross-party group of parliamentarians that focuses on raising awareness of, and building support for, large-scale hydrogen conversion projects – in July 2018.

“Hydrogen is essential to achieving Net Zero in the UK and it is clear that there is an interest from central government for a hydrogen economy,” Turley, Chair of the Hydrogen APPG, says in an exclusive interview with H2 View.

“It is difficult to see how the UK would reach its Net Zero carbon reduction targets without major conversion to hydrogen, which is now widely recognised as a vital part of our future energy mix. We have the private sector ready to invest and with government support we can deliver something that’s transformational for the whole of the UK.”

But whilst she is convinced of the critical role hydrogen will play, she acknowledges the full support of the UK Government is key to wide use of hydrogen energy.

“Whilst the government is increasingly interested in the potential of a large-scale conversion to hydrogen, there is currently no long-term policy for its role in the UK,” she explains. “The commitment made by the former chancellor in the last Spring Statement to decarbonise the gas grid is a good start, but the government needs to take swift action to deliver its promises for clean energy and unlocking the UK’s hydrogen potential could be the answer.”

“The UK has quickly established itself as a world leader in hydrogen technologies and it’s important that the government, parliament, local authorities, business and the unions all work together to maximise this opportunity, and provide a real solution to the important questions being put to us by a public becoming increasingly concerned about climate change.”

Turley highlights how hydrogen offers ways to decarbonise sectors including long-haul transport, chemicals, iron and steel, where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions whilst protecting jobs in those industries. Hydrogen can also improve air quality and strengthen energy security.

“Despite very ambitious international climate goals, global energy CO2 emissions reached an all-time high in 2018,” Turley continues. “Outdoor air pollution also remains a pressing problem, with around three million people dying prematurely each year.”

“The government needs a more ambitious timescale for the development of hydrogen trials and then must set a clear, long term framework for the role that hydrogen will play in the UK…”

Turley also notes one of the biggest barriers to eliminating carbon emissions will be looking at how we heat homes in the future. “And hydrogen will play a crucial role in this. Large-scale conversion to hydrogen has the potential to drastically cut those carbon emissions,” she says.

“In the UK, around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the heating of homes and businesses. Converting this gas supply to hydrogen would potentially cut this to zero. It would also create and sustain thousands of quality jobs and unlock innovation across a number of sectors. That’s why I am proud to have the backing of UNISON and GMB for the Hydrogen APPG.”

The group is also supported by Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, Southern Gas Networks and the Energy and Utilities Alliance, demonstrating the strength of support hydrogen conversion has within the sector.

Next steps

As Chair of the Hydrogen APPG, Turley is actively involved in setting the direction and focus of the group. She leads meetings, ensuring that robust and reasoned discussions take place, and Turley’s office also assists the Hydrogen APPG’s administration.

“The Chair’s role is also to drum up interest in the group amongst parliamentary colleagues to ensure that the APPG’s messages and discussions are widely engaged with on a cross-party basis,” Turley tells H2 View.

“I also champion hydrogen in parliament more widely. For example, to ensure that the benefits of hydrogen energy  are recognised by government and effective plans are developed for its implementation, I regularly put forward parliamentary questions to the government on key issues around hydrogen and speak in key debates.”

When asked what she would like to see happen next for hydrogen in the UK, Turley replies, “Efforts to achieve Net Zero must start now. The government needs a more ambitious timescale for the development of hydrogen trials and then must set a clear, long term framework for the role that hydrogen will play in the UK over future decades.”

“The APPG are also keen for stakeholders in the energy sector to be more aware of the important role that hydrogen can play in providing energy for many services across the UK. The government can help facilitate this by making a strong commitment to help support the hydrogen initiatives taking place.”

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