Hydrogen will prove most effective in transport in areas where batteries are unable to reach, according to the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
On 14 July, it published its “greenprint” for decarbonising all modes of transport by 2050, setting out plans to improve public transport, support active travel, create a net zero rail network by 2050, ensure net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040, and lead the transition to green shipping. It could save 1,300 to 1,800MtCO2e, deliver £9bn in benefits from better air quality and help to create and support highly skilled jobs.
It includes two commitments for hydrogen: the publication of an overarching hydrogen strategy this summer, focused on the increased production of hydrogen and use across the economy, including in transport, as well as £3mn investment in 2021 to establish the UK’s first multi-modal hydrogen transport hub in Tees Valley.
In transport, the focus will be on the use of genuinely green hydrogen and maximising its opportunities, ensuring it is able to play a full part in a renewable energy system. The government’s R&D funding and support will hone in on rail, maritime, aviation and heavy road freight, all sectors where a proven winning technology is yet to emerge and hydrogen offers in-use advantages and the largest global market potential. The aim is to maximise its potential alongside electrification on trains, buses and coaches.
Hydrogen transport hubs, meanwhile, are valued due to the way they can unite transport with industry and energy sectors, driving local industrial strategies, levelling up and local benefits. Further advantages include accelerating technology development and the ability to test at scale, providing better understanding of operational costs, enabling benefits to be felt by users sooner.
To this end, the first of the UK’s hydrogen transport hubs was launched in Tees Valley last year and will now be supported with £3mn in funding. This will kickstart activity across the region, support collaborative R&D pilot project sand pop-up trials that demonstrate hydrogen technology solutions across transport modes, and forge new industry and academic partnerships. As well as identifying options in the Tees Valley, a hub masterplan has also provided a blueprint for the creation of hubs in other areas across the UK.
One such hub is in Holyhead, with the plan to built a pilot hydrogen plant that can support the decarbonisation of the heavy goods vehicle and maritime markets on the Isle of Anglesey. The government is providing £4.8mn, subject to business case and other approvals, to support construction of the pilot project. The emerging design will aim for an initial capacity of producing 400kg of hydrogen per day.
Over the medium-term, the plan is for the project to scale up and expand into electrolytic hydrogen production. With favourable natural and physical resource endowments, the region is well placed as a cross-border multi-modal transport corridor, meaning it is well placed to test, develop and apply this technology.