The Central Role of Hydrogen in the UK's Green Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges

March 03, 2021

This article was co-authored by Christopher Orford, a Trainee Solicitor in the London office of Haynes and Boone, LLP.

In recent years, the UK’s energy sector has increasingly been viewed as one of the cleanest and most innovative industries in the world. Last November, with a view to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference due to take place in November this year, the UK government outlined its 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution”, which includes the aim to drive the growth of low carbon hydrogen. More recently, the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (“UKHFCA”) announced that on 3 March 2021 it will publish a paper titled “The Case for Green Hydrogen”. This paper will urge the UK government to take immediate action in order to be a leader in hydrogen energy and to become the world-leading exporter of electrolysis and green hydrogen technologies.

Hydrogen is widely seen to play a critical role in a move to clean energy in various sectors, and the UKHFCA paper looks to provide a clear roadmap for a green hydrogen strategy up to 2050. It also seeks to consider how hydrogen and the wider hydrogen economy can become a core part of the post-COVID ‘build back green’ economic recovery. While details of the paper are currently sparse, based on information published so far, by 2050 the plan is to have 80 GW of deployed power capacity derived from green hydrogen with the UK gas grid completely made up of hydrogen. Alongside this, the plan aims for London to be a major European trading hub for green energy and for over 40% of heavy mobility to be powered by hydrogen. There seems to be less certainty about storage solutions as it leaves open the options of ammonia, salt caverns or liquid hydrogen.

Against this backdrop, the UK Government has recently unveiled a number of ambitious plans, including promoting the construction of a UK-wide network of hydrogen stations, with the aim to reduce the cost of hydrogen by more than 20%, and facilitating a drive by natural gas network operators to deliver the UK’s first hydrogen heated town by 2030.

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