Like many other cities in the UK and all over the world, Manchester faces the challenge of reducing its emissions to limit the impacts of climate change and meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.
The city has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2038, more than a decade earlier than the target date adopted by the European commission, and 12 years ahead of the rest of the UK.
Whilst Manchester doesn’t have a single plan setting out how it will meet its climate change targets, hydrogen and fuel cell technology is being positioned as one potential route.
Last September, a brand new £4.1m facility bringing together the latest technology, world-leading academics and industry professionals to create new, clean electrolysers and fuel cells was opened at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre exists to provide small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), industry and policy makers with access to expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to implement hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, powering everything from homes to cars, nationally and globally.
The centre builds on the Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership (GMHP) which was founded in 2013 to develop and support hydrogen technology projects and embed a successful hydrogen economy in the wider North West region.
At the heart of both the GMHP and Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre is Amer Gaffar (pictured below), a passionate advocate for fuel cell and hydrogen technology.
Over the last decade, Gaffar, a Director of the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre and the founder of the GMHP, has successfully built consensus and momentum in Manchester and the North West towards positive environmental practice and cleaner energy.
Gaffar is leading a number of projects that aim to make Manchester a centre of excellence in hydrogen and fuel cells, as well as working to develop a Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy for the Greater Manchester region.
“Hydrogen has the ability to affect climate change at scale more than any other potential route as it has the potential to help deliver very low emissions pathways,” Gaffar explained in an exclusive interview with H2 View.
“This strategy is in response to the region recognising the importance that a technology like hydrogen and fuel cells can bring to the decarbonisation route for Manchester, with its ambition of being net zero carbon by 2038.”
He said the high-level objectives driving the strategy are:
- Developing a strategy for Greater Manchester that is also aligned to the North West and Northern Powerhouse ambition
- Developing a strategy that will support the North West to become the UK’s first Low Carbon Industrial Cluster, which the government wants to be in place by 2030 and one that is looking at mobilising £500m of investment in the low carbon industry
- Developing a strategy that will integrate with the proposed Greater Manchester smart energy plan, the focus of which is generation and storage, decarbonisation of heat and low carbon transport
- Act as a realistic guide to defining a comprehensive research program that will bring together stakeholders, and ensure that Greater Manchester/North West competencies are at the forefront of science and technology on a global scale
The strategy will be officially launched in March 2020, after which it will be formally adopted within the region and is set to be a coalition between the public and private sectors.
Whilst the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technology as fuel and power sources is nothing new, most people’s education and awareness of hydrogen is a science class in the periodic table.
“Back when I was at school, when we were shown the periodic table, hydrogen was top of the list but that’s all most of us remember about it,” Gaffar said.
“Inspiring young minds and developing the technology talent of tomorrow is a vital element of the centre’s ethos,” Gaffar said.
“An important area of the development of the sector is skills and to truly develop a value chain for the emerging hydrogen sector we have to be able to respond to the needs of the sector with appropriate knowledge.”
“Our approach is to start this from an early age and HySchool develops content to deliver as part of the curriculum as well as training the teachers to deliver it.”
“We are also looking at the skills sector as a pathway to decarbonisation where hydrogen has a major role to play.”