Hydrogen offers UK “quick win” in fight to decarbonise
According to the findings of an inquiry into the country’s energy policy, hydrogen is key when it comes to the UK's decarbonisation efforts | Credit: Adobe
Hydrogen and carbon capture technology offer the UK a “quick win” in decarbonising, but realising this will require significant education to drive consumer behaviour change.
These were the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies’ (PGES) 40th anniversary inquiry into the country’s energy policy: What are the energy policies that will drive an independent UK to Net Zero while fuelling the economy?
Writing in the report’s forward, PGES chair Ian Liddell-Grainger MP said the impact of the decisions made on energy policy over the comings years would outlive the politicians making them, and so it is vital for the UK to “get it right now”.
The report – which included a survey of energy suppliers, industry bodies, associations and other stakeholders – found widespread support for hydrogen as key to decarbonising the UK, with many identifying its ability to blend into existing infrastructure as a “quick win”.
Two of the report’s policy recommendations called for the development and roll-out of carbon capture technologies and the need for hydrogen for domestic heating, industrial processes, and transport.
But MPs on the APPG recognised this would not be attainable without education. “To achieve our Net Zero ambitions, a holistic approach must be taken, setting Regulations and using Demonstration at government level, with Implementation at local authority level and Education at consumer level,” Liddell-Grainger wrote.
Even so, Liddell-Grainger told PoliticsHome he did not foresee persuading people of the benefits of switching to hydrogen to be an “insurmountable challenge”.
“I think we’ll be pushing an open door on this because Covid’s shaken us out of complacency making us all aware momentous change can happen and totally disrupt us, and because I believe most people now accept climate change,” he said.
“It’s a reality from which there can be no winding back, meaning a need to adapt the way we live – even if it involves some small inconvenience – for the sake of future generations.
“But I totally agree that we need a Government-led education programme similar to those which have already, and with great success, changed attitudes towards energy conservation and recycling.”
SNP spokesperson for energy and climate change, and MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun Alan Brown cautioned against use of energy companies in any educational messaging.
Instead, he told PoliticsHome, the Government should engage advisory bodies, energy advice organisations and trusts as well as local authorities and community groups in helping consumers make informed choices.
“Educating consumers to make informed choices and travel on the net zero journey is very important,” said Mr Brown.
“Use of energy suppliers could be considered, however, we need the messages to be trusted so the use of energy companies would also have risks. There was the citizens assembly set up to look at Net Zero.
“This is a resource that needs to be used again, to get insights and interactions with how the general public understand and want these issues to be addressed.”
Cadent, which operates the UK’s largest natural gas network, welcomed the findings of the “timely” report.
External affairs manager for the North West, Jonathan Collins, told PoliticsHome that, “as the report makes clear”, hydrogen offers an opportunity to decarbonise industrial and residential heating, while also providing opportunities for regional growth.
“There are opportunities to be taken advantage of now which will contribute to regional growth whilst supporting the national ambition,” said Mr Collins.
“With projects such as Hydeploy, Hynet and our collaboration with Northern Gas Networks and BEIS on a Hydrogen House, we're working towards a hydrogen economy, which will support the transition to Net Zero.”