A vision has been unveiled for South West England and South Wales to become the UK’s first Hydrogen Ecosystem.
On 3 August, the Western Gateway Partnership and GW4 Alliance published a strategy, along with an interactive map highlighting the organisations across the area working on different uses for hydrogen, seeking to show why the area is perfectly placed to “turbocharge” the development of a hydrogen ecosystem. It noted that the region encompasses all use cases a future hydrogen economy would need to serve – road, rail, maritime, aviation, domestic heating and industrial processes, with the goal now to drive development and increase investment.
The overriding belief is that the area has all the elements needed to become a world-leading “Green Energy Super Cluster”, with significant natural assets in solar, tidal, marine and wind power, as well as leading capabilities in aerospace, nuclear and industrial decarbonisation. Hydrogen is envisaged as being at the core of such a cluster, providing a means to store energy, smooth demand curves and deliver a decarbonised net zero economy by 2050.
The landscape of hydrogen production across the Western Gateway can bring a new perspective to existing UK industrial hydrogen trials. The ambition of the partners is to develop a network of distributed, primarily green and, in relative terms, smaller hydrogen production capabilities to feed hydrogen into the grid or for localised use. It noted that investment in the Western Gateway’s hydrogen ecosystem can also complement others in development, namely HyNet in the North West and the Teesside industrial cluster.
In terms of what is needed to realise ambitions and potential, a diffuse, commercially viable network of hydrogen production will need efficient distribution and local storage solutions; for users to be confidence in secure supply; a knowledgeable and supportive regulatory environment and planning regime; clarity over the government’s hydrogen business model and supportive financial institutions; clarity on the VAT applied on hydrogen for different end users; a reliable international supply chain; and knowledge and skills development across institutions and trades.
The region believes that through making the most of its strengths, it will be able to demonstrate international leadership in delivering new clean and renewable energy solutions, helping to decarbonise the economy, while opening up new opportunities for local people in the process. It is aiming to become an exemplar area by showcasing how hydrogen can be used to realise both regional and national net zero ambitions when strengthened and underpinned by investment, industrial scale innovation and distribution generation.
Western Gateway is pledging to continue to work with partners to deliver on their ambitions and its own missions, which include investing and innovating to create greener, fairer, hydrogen-fuelled growth across their area and adding £34bn to the UK economy by 2030; convening and connecting research, innovation and commercialisation communities to generate a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges, as well as to create the collaborations and secure the investment needed to meet these; aligning roadmaps being developed by individual companies and sectors across the area to develop a shared strategy; making a material contribution to delivering the UK’s ambition for half of its 10GW low carbon hydrogen production to be from electrolytic sources by 2030; stimulating and connecting supply and demand for hydrogen; and internationalising opportunities by raising the profile of the area globally as an attractive investment location.