Hydrogen and winning net zero race key to £700bn economic recovery plan


Decarbonisation, innovation and levelling up have all been identified as driving factors behind an economic plan that could be worth £700bn.

On 24 May, the CBI published its report, Seize the moment: how can business transform the UK economy?, exploring how to establish a competitive, dynamic and future-focused UK following the shocks of Brexit and Covid-19, with COP26 on the horizon. It identified six business-led opportunities to pursue, or prizes, that the UK could capture by 2030, worth around £700bn, that would transform the economy: innovation, globalisation, regionality, inclusivity and health, with employee health and wellness seen as the foundation of firm level productivity and national economic growth.

A decarbonised economy and winning the global race to net zero was also identified as offering significant opportunities, such as capturing £8bn in additional revenues from hydrogen electrolyser production. Other economic opportunities coming from additional decarbonisation exports to the EU include electric vehicles and vehicle batteries (£18bn), carbon capture, usage and storage (£1bn) and offshore wind goods and services (£3bn).

It outlined how progressing the development of hydrogen will be a key part of efforts to realising a decarbonised economy, calling for business and government to join forces and work together to secure a growing share of low carbon exports in markets such as hydrogen, along with electric vehicles (EVs), offshore wind and carbon capture. Government was also told to clarify its envisaged role for hydrogen and propose business models to improve its investment prospects within its forthcoming Hydrogen Strategy.

Elsewhere, it stressed the need to see through the transition to new, low carbon power sources and a flexible smart energy system and accelerate progress in cutting emissions beyond the power sector. To unlock investment, meanwhile, it urged government to implement long-term incentives for energy efficiency improvements, and mandate all new domestic boiler installers, post-2025, are part of a hybrid system or are hydrogen-ready.

It also emphasised the need for government to back the aforementioned key technologies – EVs, offshore wind, carbon capture and hydrogen – with high exporting potential by leveraging the UK’s competitive strengths. It recommended a commitment of developing seven gigafactories by 2040 to support the EV market, while setting out a clear route to market for hydrogen through new Contracts for Difference auctions.