Hydrogen East celebrates One Year Anniversary


Happy first birthday to … us!

It’s a year to the day since we launched Hydrogen East and coming up to six months since we launched Net Zero East. We continue to make progress on both fronts. 

The earlier part of the period was spent getting the idea of the Bacton Energy Hub project socialised, and we believe our work is complementary to parallel work by the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) building awareness around the options for the Bacton site and the wider hydrogen debate. A link to the recorded webinar on the launch of the report is here. As well as sponsors etc., about 100 people attended the launch on 20 May and some 100 people have since downloaded the summary volume of our Bacton report, and we are receiving regular requests for the full report. We have had a lot of favourable feedback too, especially on the emphasis on identifying and building hydrogen use cases and aggregating these regionally. I presented the report to the CEOs of the Norfolk councils recently, and we are about to start a similar wave of engagement with Suffolk councils shortly.

In terms of follow up, OGA ran their workshop around a later report by consultants Progressive Energy in June 2021 and announced its intention to set up an industry-led project to take forward the blue hydrogen/CCUS elements of the work and we are seeking representation across the five proposed special interest groups. We are not convinced that this is the right approach for the wider region, and we are now progressing discussions with NALEP, North Norfolk District Council and the County Council around how a more joined up approach can be embedded that folds in early-stage development of green (and other colours) of hydrogen into a regional strategy.

There are five other key workstreams we have initiated to bring better focus around the onshore hjydrogen opportunities:

  • first, there is the Lowestoft Power Park + project. This is now underway and we have 10 sponsors, including East Suffolk District Council, Suffolk County Council, Scottish Power, Cadent and Conrad Energy. Our first project update has been issued to subscribers and we have our next steering committee meeting coming up on 5 August. We are aiming to issue our stage 1 report in early October
  • second, we intend to make a submission into the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) for a research/feasibility study of the Snetterton landfill site, embracing our SHIfT concept – Solar to Hydrogen Infrastructure for Transport. The immediate focus for the site will be the viability of both fast EV chargers and hydrogen refuellers at this strategic location on the A11. Our longer-term thinking is around a barebones infrastructure for hydrogen refuellers, which might start around the east Coast, including possibly Lowestoft or Felixstowe, but stretching to Snetteron and on to the Midlands
  • third, we have scoped a paper on a further evaluation of sites suitable for electrolyser development first in Norfolk and then in Suffolk. We discussed this idea recently with the Greater South East Energy Hub. While RCEF funding would not be available, there are opportunities to obtain matched funding, provided we can get some District Council support. We have approached some stakeholders to do a high-level evaluation of waste management and landfill sites. We will also be opening lines with a regional water company on potential development at wastewater treatment sites, given the important use-case for oxygen as a by-product of hydrogen production
  • fourth, we have begun conversations about the local flexibility value of electrolysers on what is a very heavily constrained distribution network, with a view to scoping an application for network innovation funding. Interaction with water availability and prospects for development of desalination facilities will also be considered, and
  • fifth, we are to be a part of the Interreg North Sea Region Programme in its successful bid for extension and will be focussed on delivering the hydrogen aspects of the project from supply chain mapping to outlining innovation and technology challenges. The programme will now consist of 11 partners across four European countries.

We also continue to deliver monthly H2 News Hub newsletters, tracking the latest developments in the world of hydrogen including a new policy and funding tracker. We also continue to hold regular dissemination events having presented to and held bi-laterals with 500+ regional, national and international stakeholders since inception.

On Net Zero East, we have just won our first major piece of work, which is supporting North Norfolk District Council in writing their Climate Action Plan. We will be publishing our other report on Net Zero and Local Authorities, focussing initially on Norfolk and Suffolk provisionally in August 2021. In addition, our Net Zero Map online spatial mapping portal is due to launch in Autumn 2021 – this will be the go-to tool for local authorities, developers and utilities for understanding the local landscape at a granular level including information on energy infrastructure, generation, network constraints and new connection likelihood, socio-economic indicators and natural capital, amongst others. And we are also supporting a project under the Clean Maritime Fund that is exploring Electrifying the Broads.

On resourcing, we have also expanded the executive team to five, so a big welcome to Niamh Carpenter and Joanna Wanat who have recently joined the team. So, with Johnathan Reynold’s valuable input, that makes six in all.   

Looking ahead we are already fairly heavily committed. But we are planning to do a paper for the Comprehensive Spending Review calling for a regional hydrogen strategy and support. We are also developing a Net Zero portal targetted on Local Authorities and business and domestic consumers. 

So, its been an exciting first year, and we are very much looking forward to building on the progress we have made over the coming months.