Delivery must now be focus for net zero and hydrogen


An “urgently needed” ambitious Heat and Buildings Strategy that works for consumers and a Hydrogen Strategy are among the key bits of policy government has been told to deliver.

On 24 June, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its latest progress report, warning that despite government making historic climate promises over the past year, it has been too slow to follow them with delivery. Uncertainty and delays to new climate strategies have hampered what should be a “defining year for the UK’s climate credentials” with progress now needed across a range of areas to get on track to net zero.

Lockdowns contributed to 2020 seeing a record decrease in emissions – 13% on 2019 – but they are expected to rebound next year. Furthermore, with delays to the publication of key plans, there is a large gap in policy. Credible policies for delivery were found to cover just 20% of the emissions reductions required to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget.

Success in decarbonising electricity must continue and be matched with strong policy commitments to decarbonise UK buildings, transport, industry and agriculture. Delivering the emissions reductions needed will call for government leadership, underpinned by the Net Zero Strategy, with the CCC outlining a comprehensive set of recommendations.

This includes delivering a Hydrogen Strategy, one that outlines a vision of the role for hydrogen on the path to net zero and the steps needed to realise it. It should focus on hydrogen use in sectors that cannot decarbonise without it and low carbon hydrogen production routes to 2035, with a goal to commence large-scale trials in the 2020s.

The need to focus on delivery echoes a joint media statement from Hydrogen East, the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, Energy UK, RenewableUK, Decarbonised Gas Alliance, Midlands Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Network and British Compressed Gases Association. With the CCC forecasting £50bn per year will be needed by 2050 in decarbonisation spending, the 2035 target of a 78% reduction in emissions means this investment must be unlocked quickly to deliver the infrastructure future society will rely on.

On hydrogen in particular, the group said support is needed now if it is to be rolled out on a wide scale by 2030. Considering its many potential uses in heavy industry, heating, transport, aviation and supporting the power industry, the group deemed current debates around hydrogen to be “unhelpful” and detracting from the overall net zero goal.

For example, there is little public benefit to debating merits of battery compared to fuel cell-powered electric vehicles when both are needed for net zero, or whether carbon capture will be needed considering the CCC, among others, has already affirmed its importance. While it is important net zero energy policy is considered, iterative and affordable, “paralysis through analysis” will be more costly to the UK’s decarbonisation efforts than investing more in one net zero technology than another once the first projects are delivered. Instead, the only way to learn how technologies can truly enable the transition is by building and learning from them.

Featured image: Is government ambition on track? Source: CCC