​Rising competition in the hydrogen industry impacts the UK’s global position

Posted on 11 September 2023

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has highlighted that the UK has declined from its high position in the International Hydrogen Progress Index. Research by ENA’s gas representatives and the trade association Hydrogen UK have emphasised the UK’s dropping position in the hydrogen market, and relevant organisations are encouraging the UK Government to support the progress of the clean energy industry.

Based on the Index, in 2021, the UK was positioned as second in the hydrogen market, just behind South Korea, with the country making considerable progress with hydrogen development and supporting its path towards net zero. In recent years, however, progress has reduced in the UK, enabling other countries to capitalise on their development plans in hydrogen. The ENA highlighted the USA, Germany, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and France as the countries overtake the UK. One of the major issues with the UK’s hydrogen development is that the political uncertainty regarding technology has meant that policies and funding plans are not meeting necessary standards compared to other markets. This level of uncertainty has also led to no significant projects progressing to the final investment decisions stage since 2021, according to the ENA.

Clare Jackson, the CEO of Hydrogen UK, explains that delays in policies and a lack of clarity from the Government, have slowed the progression of low-carbon hydrogen projects. Jackson highlights that we are still waiting for the Energy Bill to pass and emphasises that the UK has the ability and innovation to be a leader in hydrogen but requires the UK government to prioritise their recommendations to achieve this.

To drive progress forward, ENA’s representatives and Hydrogen UK have highlighted four recommendations for industry and the government to support growth. This includes accelerating quicker and being more flexible with production delivery, determining strategic infrastructure investment and providing more clarity on the roles hydrogen can play in industry, power, transport and heat.

Silvia Simon, the head of hydrogen at the Energy Networks Association, explains that the UK was way ahead of global competition in 2021, in terms of developing hydrogen and establishing a decarbonised energy system, but other nations are catching up. The hydrogen industry wants to work closely with the UK Government to create a long-term plan for a decarbonised nation, and by partnering together, the UK can re-establish its leading position.

The UK Government has been somewhat cautious with its approach to hydrogen. Despite significant support, the initial Hydrogen Strategy set a goal of 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030, a significantly lower target compared to other nations. Criticism of the target initiated a new figure of 10GW, with 5GW coming from green hydrogen.

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