One certainty in this UK General Election we find ourselves in, is that hydrogen will be on the agenda of the next UK Government.
Analysis from Hydrogen Future shows all three major UK-wide parties, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, as well as the SNP (who control the Scottish Parliament), have made commitments to implement policies and/or increase investment in hydrogen technology.
Individually, the contents of the above grid could be seen as a collection small statements, vague in detail and lacking enough hard targets. Awareness and understanding of the potential use of hydrogen for heat, transport and power in heavy industry is still young among the Westminster-based policymakers, so I wouldn’t expect them to set out a long-term vision in this election campaign – but the fact they all acknowledge the role and importance of hydrogen is very welcome.
Collectively the manifesto references from all the main parties symbolise a huge step in the momentum, interest and support for hydrogen technology across the UK. For example, in the 2017 General Election, only the Liberal Democrats referred to hydrogen in their manifesto – and this only as part of a long list of technologies they pledged to invest in.
Looking at the broader picture, all parties are now making their strongest ever statements on tackling climate change, committing to introduce measures to set the UK on the path to realising Net Zero, as well as steps to improve air quality and implement cleaner transport options. These policies can be seen as a response to the environment and climate change becoming more important issues for voters.
This election therefore provides a springboard for the hydrogen industry to make major progress over the next Parliament. The next Government, whoever forms it, must be held accountable to make progress on its commitments, and every MP and member of House of Lords that represents these parties will have a duty to develop their understanding, and support for hydrogen policies.
The next Parliament, which could last for up to five years, will be absolutely critical to determining the future role that hydrogen will play in the UK economy. What then, can individual organisations do to maximise the potential of the party manifesto commitments?
We need a combination of bottom-up and top-down action from the sector. First, every organisation is based somewhere, meaning it has a local MP (as well as a local council). I urge organisations to make contact with them with clear, and easy to understand information about how you are developing hydrogen technology and the potential of this technology to decrease local carbon emissions and create local job opportunities.
To compliment this, we need to inspire and excite Government minsters and their advisers. The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, visited Worcester Bosch earlier in the General Election campaign to learn about its hydrogen-ready boiler; ministers like photo opportunities, so organisations should look to invite them to site visits so they can see and experience the innovation taking place in the UK to develop hydrogen technologies.
The UK truly has the opportunity to become the world-leader in hydrogen technology. Clearly, the next Government will need to do a lot of work to develop its manifesto commitments but with COP26 on the horizon as well, 2020 should be seen as a year of opportunity for anyone interested in advancing hydrogen technology and policy in the UK.
Hydrogen Future was established this year (2019) as the first specialist communications unit dedicated to hydrogen. Based in London, Hydrogen Future will focus on political lobbying, media relations and specialist events.
It has been set up by The Connect Group, a leading UK independent agency, who over recent years has collaborated with some of the biggest players in hydrogen innovation such as Cadent, Northern Gas Networks and Toyota.