COMMENT | Hydrogen: game-changer for North West economy

The energy landscape is changing swiftly, with a growing focus on clean energy solutions, writes Benn Cottrell of United Living.

It is becoming more and more apparent that we’re going to need a mixed fuel economy, utilising fuel sources that have green credentials, bring value for money and that the public can both understand and consequently embrace.

During COP26, countries across the world showcased global measures and initiatives to combat climate change. The UK unveiled its green credentials via projects that include tidal barrages, wind farms, energy-efficient domestic heating, and technologies like carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and hydrogen power.

Cleaner heat, cleaner air

If the UK is to achieve its ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a mix of clean fuels will be required to meet increasing energy demands. Hydrogen generation and carbon capture, ultimately supported by renewable electricity, will be instrumental in providing clean, reliable energy for 2050 and beyond.

Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen burns cleanly, producing only water as a by-product. Repurposing all or part of the existing gas network to hydrogen could slash carbon emissions. Using hydrogen to fuel vehicles in place of petrol or diesel would also help improve our urban air quality.

From decarbonising our energy and contributing to climate change targets to substantially improving the region’s air quality, delivering a fully functioning hydrogen power industry would be transformational.

Game changer for the North West

With its history of bold innovation and industry, the region is the perfect choice to lead the low carbon energy transition. The concentration of industry, existing technical skill base and unique geology, offers unparalleled opportunities for a hydrogen energy cluster.

The recent news that HyNet North West, a significant project in the region to generate, store and distribute hydrogen, has been selected as a lead project for government investment, is hugely positive. It will position the North West of England right at the centre of the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ over the next 20 years.

While ambitious, HyNet is low-cost and achievable. This revolutionary project can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10m tonnes every year by 2030 – the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road. By achieving this, HyNet will create and maintain thousands of local jobs and enable long-term sustainability for businesses and financial security for communities across the region.

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Collaboration is the key to success

There are clear opportunities for businesses, investors and entrepreneurs across the North West to help shape the future of energy in the UK, but making it a reality will take true collaboration. Indeed, the HyNet project demonstrates that when the business and public sectors collaborate, they can make a persuasive case to government to invest in the region.

Central to developing a hydrogen economy is the North West Hydrogen Alliance, an inclusive organisation bringing together business, industry, academia and local government to champion and publicise all things hydrogen.

As a member of the NWHA, we have supported the development of a hydrogen-based economy. Our existing knowledge and experience in construction services delivery on the UK gas transmission and distribution system make United Living Infrastructure Services a reliable and trusted partner to support the deployment of hydrogen power and CCUS.

Time to deliver

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to effect real change in energy production and consumption, creating the building blocks for a safer and cleaner world for generations to come.

In the North West, United Living Infrastructure Services is primed and ready to deliver the UK’s first hydrogen economy and make a real contribution to the nation’s net zero targets, supporting the UK’s clean growth strategy. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of this evolution to a cleaner energy future. We have the engineering, design and build capabilities that will help transform the utility networks to support the green recovery.

  • Benn Cottrell is managing director of United Living Infrastructure Services

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