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​Hydrogen – a strategic path towards reaching net zero

Climate change has continued to rise up on the International agenda and within the eyes of the public worldwide. In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to set laws to become carbon neutral by 2050. This was a promising move by the nation, but to reach this target will require utilising every possible means available, implementing the latest technology and innovation. So where does Hydrogen stand in the nation’s clean energy targets? The UK’s Climate Change Committee has recommended the development of a hydrogen economy to support industrial processes, particularly in large scale transport and for the electricity and heating industries. By 2050, a low carbon industry will require a hydrogen production capacity measuring the equivalent size of the nation’s existing gas-powered facilities.

While there is some pressure to introduce new technologies, it is vital to ensure new safety remains the top priority. In the last year, there were notable incidents involving hydrogen in the US, Norway and South Korea. It is therefore essential that the UK introduces a clear set of safety guidelines at an early stage to assess new technology, the infrastructure required and the plans to deliver a low carbon economy. There are potential hurdles to overcome, but there are also a number of opportunities to utilise new systems and ensure safety remains a top priority.

Hydrogen’s position in transport

The UK has committed to banning the sale of all new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. With this date approaching, strategies towards decarbonising transport networks require significant acceleration. Vehicles using battery, hydrogen and energy storage are in existence within the UK. The lack of sufficient infrastructure has, however, reduced the takeup of hydrogen in the transport industry. Nevertheless, hydrogen is playing a small part in our transport industry, with hydrogen buses operating safely in many cities worldwide, including London. The challenge now lies in improving the uptake, which requires expanding the infrastructure in a controlled and safe manner and accelerating the integration of hydrogen as a method of supporting different transport modes. Hydrogen offers a number of opportunities for the transport industry but requires improvements to the existing infrastructure and continued consideration of all safety challenges.

Hydrogen clearly has an important part to play in reaching net zero by 2050 in the UK and overseas. In order to achieve these goals will involve a continued focus on new technology and accelerated efforts in the development of low carbon systems. It is critical that long term plans are based on clear scientific industry research, harnessing the most effective approach towards net zero. These strategic methods will enable safety to be incorporated into designs, utilising the best technology and the latest smart systems. A lack of commitment towards delivering the expertise and industry knowledge could slow down the uptake of hydrogen and overall confidence in this as a major contributor towards reaching our national targets.