On 12 August the Hydrogen Taskforce published its Economic Impact Assessment setting out the benefits that a hydrogen economy could deliver for the UK.  I was privileged to be invited to the launch event to hear first hand the detailed work that has gone into this comprehensive study and the compelling economic case for investing in hydrogen as part of the "build back greener" agenda.  

The headline figures of c.75,000 jobs and £18billion gross value add are based on careful and prudent projections not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.  

However, nothing of this scale will materialise without policy and regulatory support.  The conclusion reached in our recent hydrogen roundtables is that a hydrogen economy on this scale needs the carrot of support mechanisms as well as the stick of increased regulatory action on carbon, and regulatory barriers need to be overcome.  A supportive legal framework for hydrogen needs careful thought because hydrogen will play a role in so many otherwise hard-to-decarbonise parts of the economy (manufacturing feedstock, heat for heavy industry, transport, domestic heat, power, storage, etc.).  This is not a single-sector issue.  That's exactly why our roundtables brought together different sectors to talk to each other: the solution will not emerge from any one silo.

Here are some of my take-aways from the report and the launch presentation:

  • To achieve these figures by 2035 requires action now: the Taskforce repeats its plea for a comprehensive hydrogen strategy from Government, and an ambitious one.  The Burges Salmon hydrogen team echoes that!
  • The report assumes an 80:20 split of blue hydrogen and green hydrogen by 2035: green hydrogen will be growing its market share by 2035 as it becomes more competitive, but significant investment in blue hydrogen is needed now to drive the market. 
  • The UK can build a world-leading green hydrogen economy with its plentiful wind resource and its global leaders in electrolyser technology: by 2035 the report estimates 11,240 jobs in electrolyser manufacturing in the UK.
  • The report's figures only address the domestic market: the export opportunities (in particular, feeding green hydrogen into the EU network) would be an additional economic benefit.
  • The UK's geology is well suited for centralised storage of large volumes of hydrogen, utilising our natural salt caverns.  From our experience of high-hazard installations we agree that centralised storage may be easier than numerous above-ground COMAH facilities, and the Burges Salmon team has a track record in consenting salt cavern gas storage projects so we have worked through those issues before.

This report shows that hydrogen is a great opportunity for the UK: we now need the right legal and policy framework to make it happen.