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UK lacks hydrogen strategy to help it reach net-zero carbon, MPs say

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A group of MPs is calling on the UK government to more clearly define how it will integrate hydrogen fuel into a low-carbon energy mix in order for the UK to meet its climate commitments.

Philip Dunne MP, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma stating that the lack of clear vision from the government risks scuppering progress for hydrogen to play a key role in the UK’s ambitions to reach net-zero carbon by 2050.

While the UK is ahead in terms of technology and understanding, it is falling behind other countries as it is yet to set out its hydrogen strategy, he writes in the letter.

The UK does not currently produce significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen or have technologies in place to create a market for that hydrogen.

He also states that the UK’s offshore wind-energy facilities could create a ripe opportunity to create renewable hydrogen to sell in a market estimated to be worth $2.5tr by 2050, supporting 30 million jobs.

“The majority of global hydrogen production (around 95 per cent) uses fossil-fuel feedstocks,” the letter reads.

“If we are going to continue to make hydrogen from fossil fuels, it will have to be integrated with very high levels of carbon capture to scale up low-carbon hydrogen production.

“Other nations, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and China have already set ambitious strategies for growing their hydrogen economies.

“The European Commission has recently created an EU hydrogen strategy, which includes plans for multi-billion-euro investment in hydrogen projects, and schemes to boost sales of hydrogen electric vehicles.”

The EAC said a robust hydrogen strategy could play a key role in supporting cost-effective decarbonisation of transport sectors such as aviation and shipping.

Such a strategy could also lead to hydrogen clusters forming around the country, supporting jobs and local economies, while supporting heavy industrial processes such as chemicals and steel in a transition to hydrogen.

This decarbonisation could be accomplished by mixing hydrogen with natural gas or developing power plants to run on 100 per cent hydrogen.

“We must end our reliance on dirty fuels and hydrogen could be the key to realising our low-carbon potential,” Dunne said.

“The UK’s strengths in innovation, technology and skills can be used to champion hydrogen as a major player in our energy mix – but the government must pave the way."

The Committee has requested a response from the government by 2 September.

In 2018, researchers from Swansea University said the UK could easily reduce its carbon emissions by replacing nearly a third of its natural gas with hydrogen fuel that would still be compatible with existing boilers and ovens. 

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