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The Political Future OF Hydrogen In The UK

Adveco looks at the future of hydrogen as a green gas option for net zero and considers how the political parties’ agendas and next month’s general election could affect the technology’s adoption and its application for the commercial and public sectors…

For many, the future of hydrogen is seen to be a crucial component in the path to net zero emissions by 2050. Hydrogen’s potential to decarbonise industries, provide energy storage, and power transport is acknowledged across political spectrums. This assessment examines the perspectives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties, as well as independent candidates, on hydrogen technology.

The Conservative Party has shown support for hydrogen as a versatile and scalable energy solution. Their Hydrogen Strategy, launched in 2021, is intended to produce 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030. The Conservatives advocate for both green hydrogen (produced using renewable energy) and blue hydrogen (produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage).

The Conservatives see hydrogen as critical for sectors that are difficult to electrify, such as heavy industry, aviation, and shipping. It is also a sector expected to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, aligning with the Conservatives’ broader economic agenda. To achieve this would see significant investments in hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure which in turn would drive UK innovation and development.

However, some have suggested creation of such a comprehensive regulatory framework to support hydrogen infrastructure and ensure safety could be complex and costly. In addition, blue hydrogen, while lower in emissions than grey hydrogen, still relies on fossil fuels and is less clean than green hydrogen.

Labour is more ambitious in its hydrogen plans, envisioning a green hydrogen revolution to support its broader Green New Deal. They emphasise public investment and ownership in the hydrogen sector, aiming to ensure a just transition and to drive rapid decarbonization.

A focus on green hydrogen aligns with Labour’s strong environmental agenda, reducing reliance on fossil fuels entirely. The proposed large-scale public investment would accelerate infrastructure development, reduce costs through economies of scale, and create thousands of jobs in the hydrogen sector, particularly in regions transitioning away from fossil fuels.

The economic feasibility of this policy has come into question with the high cost of green hydrogen production and infrastructure development posing considerable economic challenges requiring substantial public funding. Not least to achieve the proposed rapid and wide-scale adoption of green hydrogen technologies. Significant logistical and technical hurdles hold great potential for delaying rapid progress.

The Liberal Democrats have historically championed environmental issues, and their commitment to hydrogen is consistent with their broader green agenda. They view hydrogen not just as an energy solution but as a means to drive economic growth and innovation. Their policy also emphasises the development of green hydrogen, produced using renewable energy, over blue hydrogen, which involves carbon capture and storage.

To achieve this the party advocates substantial investments in hydrogen infrastructure. This includes funding for research and development, subsidies for hydrogen production, and the establishment of hydrogen refuelling stations. By promoting hydrogen, they aim to position the UK as a leader in green technology, potentially creating thousands of jobs, fostering new industries and creating significant advancements in transportation, industry, and energy storage. This positions hydrogen as a cornerstone of the nation’s green economy.

Like the Conservatives and Labour, the Liberal Democrats’ policy on hydrogen also faces significant challenges in terms of costs, technology, and market acceptance. Balancing these pros and cons will be crucial for the policy’s success and its impact on the UK’s green transition.

The Green Party strongly supports green hydrogen, advocating for its role in achieving 100% renewable energy and eliminating reliance on fossil fuels entirely. Their focus is on producing hydrogen using fully renewable and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar, aligning perfectly with net-zero targets to minimise air pollution and other environmental impacts associated with fossil fuels. By prioritising domestic production of green hydrogen, the UK could reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels driving energy independence.

The Green Party policy would be associated with substantial initial investments in production, infrastructure, and technology development. Concerns have also been raised over the reliance on renewable energy sources, essential for green hydrogen, as they are intermittent, necessitating significant advancements in storage solutions.

Localised and community-driven, independent candidates offer varied and often innovative approaches to hydrogen policy. Their policies emphasise versatility and innovation, with overt support for regional pilot projects, fostering innovation and local solutions tailored to specific needs. This prioritisation of community-driven projects could help enhance local acceptance and integration of hydrogen technologies moving forward. However, a lack of a unified approach means fragmented policies and potential inefficiencies. The Independents also lack the political clout to secure large-scale funding and support for more ambitious hydrogen projects.

Implications for Commercial and Public Sectors

For the commercial sector, the Conservative policy offers opportunities in hydrogen production and supply chain development, particularly for companies involved in manufacturing, heavy transport, and large-scale energy projects. Labour’s approach would also directly benefit commercial entities involved in renewable energy, engineering, and manufacturing sectors tied to hydrogen technology. The Green Party’s policies would focus on creating opportunities in renewable energy, especially for companies involved in wind, solar, and hydrogen production.

Labour policy would see public sector organisations gain substantial support for transitioning to hydrogen-based systems, particularly in public transportation and energy-intensive facilities. The emphasis on public ownership and investment could also mean more direct involvement and funding for public-sector hydrogen projects. Under Conservative policy, public sector organisations, especially those managing large vehicle fleets (like public transport) or energy-intensive operations (like hospitals), could benefit from pilot projects and eventual widescale adoption of hydrogen technologies.

One of the most significant impacts of the Liberal Democrats’ hydrogen policy would be on the transportation sector. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) are a promising alternative to electric vehicles (EVs), particularly for heavy-duty transport such as buses, trucks, and trains. Hydrogen’s role in decarbonising heavy industry is another critical aspect of the Liberal Democrats’ policy. Industries such as steel, cement, and chemicals are challenging to electrify and currently rely heavily on fossil fuels. Green hydrogen can provide a carbon-neutral energy source for these sectors, helping to meet emission reduction targets while maintaining industrial productivity. Strong investment in hydrogen storage technologies is also deemed critical to ensure a stable energy supply, even when renewable generation is low.

The Green Party’s drive for cleaner energy sources should improve public health and reduce environmental impact. However, the need for significant initial investment could strain public sector budgets unless supported by robust government funding.

Commercial entities could benefit from partnerships with local governments and communities, exploring innovative hydrogen solutions, a path the Independents would be expected to champion along with unique, localised hydrogen initiatives that could support public sector projects.

Conclusion

Hydrogen presents a viable pathway to achieving net-zero emissions in the UK, with varying approaches across political parties reflecting different priorities and strategies.

The Conservatives are proposing a balanced approach supporting both blue and green hydrogen, fostering a gradual transition. This is favourable for commercial entities involved in both traditional and renewable energy sectors. Public sector organisations can expect stable, albeit slower, integration of hydrogen technologies. For Labour, the ambitious push for green hydrogen and significant public investment promises rapid decarbonisation and job creation. This benefits commercial sectors focused on renewables and manufacturing, with robust support for public sector hydrogen adoption, albeit with potential economic and logistical challenges. The Liberal Democrats’ emphasis on hydrogen as a green gas solution underscores their commitment to a sustainable and innovative future for the UK. Their policies could drive significant advancements in transportation, industry, and energy storage, positioning hydrogen as a cornerstone of the nation’s green economy spurring economic growth and technological innovation.  With a focus on 100% renewable green hydrogen, the Green Party aligns with a sustainable future but comes with high initial costs. Commercial sectors in renewables and public sectors could lead to green hydrogen adoption, driving significant environmental benefits. With often innovative and localised solutions, independents could drive niche hydrogen projects, fostering community engagement and tailored applications. Commercial and public sector opportunities would vary, potentially leading to unique hydrogen initiatives.

Each political perspective provides different pathways and implications for the future of hydrogen as a green gas solution. Following the results of the general election on July 4th, UK commercial and public sector organisations will need to consider aligning their often nascent sustainability strategies with the evolving political landscape.

Discover Adveco’s range of hydrogen blend-ready water heaters for commercial projects or read more about the future of hydrogen, net zero and the latest approaches to achieving low-carbon water heating in your buildings.