More Good Intentions?
On Tuesday this week, UK Government published its first Hydrogen Strategy, in a Policy Paper which has been greeted with a fanfare of publicity.
There is no doubt that hydrogen is capable of playing a key role in the battle against climate change. This observation, however, has been available to all for more than a decade. Why has it taken so long to translate an observation into a policy? Part of the answer undoubtedly lies in the suspicion surrounding the safety of hydrogen, what might be called the Hindenburg effect. Few people alive today remember the Hindenburg airship disaster in 1937, but many have seen horrifying images of the blazing inferno caused by the accident.
Equally, a more mundane explanation for the time it has taken for UK Government to wake up to the potential of hydrogen in the energy mix is the difficulty of applying it. Hydrogen is not a good option for small scale energy delivery in cars, or domestic boilers, for example. It is good, however, at a larger scale: HGVs, industrial applications, power stations even.
Another explanation for neglecting hydrogen might be its cost, or more particularly its high energy use. Its production relies on electricity and if this is non-renewable in source, its contribution to the reduction in carbon emissions is compromised before we start. The challenge right now is that the big electrolysers needed for producing hydrogen are expensive to produce and to run, whether the electricity is renewably sourced or not.
But all the same, Hydrogen has been pioneered in Scotland, in projects ranging from hydrogen buses in Aberdeen to ferries on Orkney and van fleets in Fife. These projects are all more than five years old, and have demonstrated some of the potential of hydrogen successfully.
However, perhaps we should say “better late than never”, while noting that the UK Government is ahead of other world governments in introducing a hydrogen strategy. It is pioneering, and welcome in that sense. But is this enough to draw the applause it has received? Green Angel Syndicate suggests this may be a case of hope exceeding expectations.
“There is a real chasm between the ambition expressed in this policy paper, and the resource allocation. It states a figure of £4 billion investment over the next 10 years, or £400 million annually on average. In 2019 alone, UK Government spent £10.5 billion in support of fossil fuels, according to the EC Report, Energy Prices and Costs in Europe,” comments Nick Lyth, Green Angel Syndicate CEO.
Alongside this, the strategy promises to consult on the design of a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which aims to support the commercial deployment of new low carbon hydrogen production plants across the UK; and also announces a £105 million funding package through its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio that will act as a first step to build up Britain’s low carbon hydrogen economy. The investment will help industries to develop low carbon alternatives for industrial fuels, including hydrogen, which will be key to meeting climate commitments.
“These are very good intentions, but we know what is paved with good intentions, and it’s not real achievements. These sums of money are disappointing. £345 million sounds like a big number, but when set against the cost of commercialising technology innovation, it is a drop in the ocean. Once again, the Government’s rhetoric is outstripping its delivery by hiding small numbers behind big words,” says Lyth.
Notes to editors
Green Angel Syndicate(GAS) is one of the largest active angel syndicates in the UK and the only one specialising in the fight against Climate Change. GAS has attracted over 290 members and invested more than £10 million in 27 start-up or early-stage companies across 10 different economic sectors.
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