The North West can lead the way on Britain’s energy security
An aerial view of Pilkington Glass works, St Helens, North West England | Credit: Alamy
New projects show that the North West has the potential to drive forward the UK's emerging hydrogen economy.
The path to achieving net zero offers a once in a generation opportunity for the UK, and specifically the North West to create long-term green jobs, attract inward investment, and solidify our reputation as a centre for innovation and as a highly attractive location for sustainable organisations.
The north west has the UK’s the largest concentration of advanced manufacturing and chemical production, which in turn creates a duty on its leaders to lead the UK’s green transition. Building on our rich tradition of industrial innovation, our region has the expertise, skills and infrastructure to spearhead the next industrial revolution.
For example, HyNet, which is the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation initiative, has the potential to reduce Co2 emissions by 10 million tonnes every year – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road. And it also has the potential of providing up to 6,000 new jobs for local people and generate up to £17billion for the region.
And we’re already witnessing the positive impacts of the project. Last year, trials to produce sheet glass using hydrogen instead of natural gas at Pilkington UK’s St Helens facility were conducted with huge success. This is believed to be the first large-scale demonstration of 100% hydrogen firing in a live sheet glass production environment anywhere in the world.
I often hear people say we don’t make anything in the UK and, actually, it’s quite the reverse. There are some 340,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the northwest alone, where wages are on average much higher than the equivalent service sector. We’re also seeing increasing global investment into manufacturing in the region providing huge economic benefits for our communities.
The challenges faced by the sector include reducing carbon emissions. The decision to fast-track HyNet project will allow for investment and development of ground-breaking carbon capture and storage technology, something we can use to help businesses like Novelis in Latchford as well as manufacturing plants around the world to cut harmful emissions and protect jobs.
HyNet also strengthens the business-case for conducting a ‘hydrogen-village’ trial in the North West, to explore the viability of injecting up to 100% hydrogen into the natural gas network. According to Cadent, who are the gas network serving 11m homes and businesses across the north west, the inclusion of a hydrogen blend would allow two million homes in Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester to reduce their carbon footprint overnight with little to no disruption.
Delivering transformational projects such as HyNet, the UK’s first hydrogen village and hydrogen-powered public transport schemes demonstrate the real commitment to establish the north west as a leader in hydrogen technology.
The North West has a unique opportunity to set an example to the rest of the country and be leaders in the green industrial revolution, delivering thousands of jobs in the process. I’m proud of what we have achieved with industry so far, but am eager to go further and faster to unlock the full potential of the hydrogen economy.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.