Government ministers under fire for long-awaited hydrogen proposal

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Ministers want to develop zero emissions “green” hydrogen made using renewable power  and “blue” hydrogen which uses fossil fuel gas whose carbon emissions are to be captured and stored underground in, say, old North Sea oil and gas fields.

Hydrogen is currently more expensive than existing fuels and the Government is considering subsidies to help kickstart the industry by bringing prices down.

It says hydrogen could one day provide a third of the UK’s energy.

And it expects the industry to support more than 9,000 jobs and be worth £900 million to the UK by 2030, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to £13 billion by 2050.

Green hydrogen splits water to produce H2 and oxygen by using renewable electricity.

Blue hydrogen gets the gas by making natural gas react with steam which releases carbon.

This risks undermining the Government’s legacy binding commitment to eliminate or offset all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Greenpeace Chief Scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “Hydrogen produced from renewable energy is genuinely low carbon, and genuinely useful in some areas of the economy where electrification is difficult. 

“But producing large quantities of hydrogen from fossil gas locks us into costly infrastructure that is expensive and, according to a study published last week, may be higher carbon than just burning the gas. 

“So the emphasis put on that part of the government’s plan looks like a bad idea both environmentally and economically.”

RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said: “While we welcome positive steps like the new Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, overall the strategy doesn’t focus nearly enough on developing the UK’s world-leading green hydrogen industry.

“In the year when the UK is hosting the biggest climate change summit for years, we fear that international investors in renewable hydrogen may compare this strategy to those of other countries and vote with their feet. The Government must use the current consultation period to amend its plans and set out a clear ambition for green hydrogen.

“The UK has the potential to generate vast quantities of renewable hydrogen using clean electricity from offshore wind which can be stored and used whenever it’s needed, providing flexibility to our energy system. 

“Green hydrogen is a clean fuel for sectors which have proved difficult to decarbonise so far, such as shipping and heat for heavy industry.”

Chief Policy Director at CBI Matthew Fell said: “With hydrogen key to unlocking decarbonisation across carbon-intensive sectors, as well as stimulating high levels of skilled green jobs, the Government’s Hydrogen Strategy is a key milestone.” 

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today marks the start of the UK’s hydrogen revolution.”

This home-grown clean energy source has the potential to transform the way we power our lives and will be essential to tackling climate change and reaching net zero.

“With the potential to provide a third of the UK’s energy in the future, our strategy positions the UK as first in the global race to ramp up hydrogen technology and seize the thousands of jobs and private investment that come with it.”

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