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UK: The South West needs a hydrogen vision…

UK: The South West needs a hydrogen vision…

The UK has been playing its cards close to its chest over the past year when it comes to the energy transition. Whist major European economies, such as France, Germany and the EU, were committing billions in funding towards greening their economies over the course of 2020, the UK was seemingly silent on the matter until November of last year when Boris Johnson published his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. Within this plan are targets for increased deployment of RES (Renewable Energy Sources), mainly offshore wind, as well as driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen and both of their respective low/zero-emission applications such as mobility and heating.

In areas of historic industrial activity, as well as around major cities, we are already starting to see these ambitions put into action; all you have to do is google the word ‘Teesside’ nowadays to find the plans for the UK’s first decarbonised industrial cluster, featuring 1GW worth of blue hydrogen production capacity by 2030 courtesy of BP – 20% of the UK’s total target. However, for the South West of the UK, and particularly Devon and Cornwall, a region that lacks widescale robust connection to national energy infrastructure, the route to decarbonisation is much more unclear.

Despite being one of the prime locations for energy revolution in the UK, with large amounts of wind, sun and a vast offshore area to exploit, the South West faces a number of energy issues; primely related to heat. National gas pipelines do not extend to much of Cornwall and Devon, leaving the region in energy isolation, as well as with a higher than average fuel poverty rate (14.4% for Cornwall compared to the UK average of 10.3%).

Furthermore, according to data from 2018 Fuel Poverty Statistics for England, the SW faces the third-highest fuel poverty gap of £369 (behind West Midlands and East Anglia) meaning, not only are more people on average in fuel poverty, but also the required reduction in bills to alleviate the problem is higher than average too, mainly due to the necessary use of old and inefficient fuels (e.g. oil). A disheartening mix.

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