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Hydrogen economy can bring £17bn boost to region, say leading industry figures

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 03/12/2018 Shelina Begum
smoke coming from it: The UK needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 57% by 2030 to meet its long-term goal for tackling climate change © PA The UK needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 57% by 2030 to meet its long-term goal for tackling climate change

The north west could lead the UK’s hydrogen energy revolution.

That's according to an influential industry group, the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA), which has come together to highlight how the region could make hydrogen energy a reality helping to bring down carbon emissions and support clean growth.

NWHA unites some of the UK’s leading organisations including; Atkins, BOC, Cadent, Costain, Peel Environmental, Shell and the University of Chester, to position the region 'as the UK leader for hydrogen energy.'

Revolution

It says the region has the industry, infrastructure and innovation to lead the UK’s hydrogen energy revolution, bringing with it huge benefits such as new jobs, skills and investment.

The group’s partners are leading the way in response to the Committee on Climate Change’s call for urgent on the ground action to show the potential for hydrogen.

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The Committee has recognised that 'hydrogen can make an important contribution to long-term decarbonisation' if it is combined with other energy saving measures.

Tony Smith, commercial strategy manager at Peel Environmental, said: “The north west of England is poised to be the primary region for the development of a decarbonised, hydrogen based energy market for the UK.

“It already features all the necessary components to develop a hydrogen economy – thriving industry, an existing skilled workforce, city regions that collaborate, as well as natural and industrial assets.”

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Powerhouse Energy

Innovative ideas to advance clean energy build on the hydrogen production and use that has been happening in the region for many years, such as BOC’s hydrogen plant in St.Helens.

Powerhouse Energy is developing technologies to turn waste plastic into hydrogen and ITM Power, along with Cadent, is exploring the use cutting edge hydrogen production technology in the region.

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The north west is also poised to deliver two exciting ‘first of their kind’ hydrogen energy projects.

The first public network trials of hydrogen and blended gas are being planned for the region through Alliance partner Cadent’s HyDeploy project.

Blended hydrogen and natural gas could be a straightforward way for customers to make carbon savings from their homes without any changes to their appliances or the way they use gas.

More ambitious plans have also been set out in Cadent’s HyNet North West project which plans to use hydrogen for significant CO 2 emissions savings from industry, homes and transport.

£17bn economic boost

Phase 1 of HyNet is now underway which includes looking at how to re-purpose existing infrastructure in the region for hydrogen delivery, and exploring opportunities for hydrogen vehicles, including trains.

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Professor Joseph Howe, chair of the NWHA and executive director of the Thornton Energy Institute, said: “To meet climate change targets and reduce CO 2 emissions we need to find ways of decarbonising our energy systems.

"Hydrogen can be used as a clean energy source to heat our homes and businesses and is changing the face of transport with fuel cell cars, commercial vehicles and trains.

“We’re seeing major leaps forward in the technology all over the world, but some of the leading research and development is taking place right here in the north west.

“Take Cadent’s HyNet and HyDeploy projects – flagship schemes to distribute hydrogen across the Manchester and Liverpool regions.

"They’ll bring with them a £17bn economic boost, 5,000 jobs and over 1 million tonnes of CO 2 savings every year. That’s just one project.”

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Federation of Small Businesses

The work around hydrogen energy comes as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) calls for more transparency around preparations currently being drawn up as part of a Clean Air Plan in GM.

The plan, currently being finalised by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), could see a raft of measures introduced across GM to reduce pollution levels.

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This could include pollution charging for older diesel vehicles, but preferred alternatives could include increased parking charges at certain times of the day to reduce peak-hour car travel, and even the introduction of a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) – effectively a tax on car parking spaces owned by businesses.

The FSB says it is concerned changes being considered could prove damaging to businesses right across the region, and that most GM based businesses are totally unaware about the plans which would prove a significant financial hit for many small firms running older fleets across the region.

“We need more information about these plans so businesses can start preparing,” said FSB development manager for Greater Manchester, Robert Downes.

“At the moment there appears to be very little public awareness or official engagement about what’s being drawn up, and that’s very concerning for the business community, especially as there are financial implications.

£The authorities must communicate their intentions much more openly, and ensure before any change there is a meaningful consultation process which will listen to any valid concerns raised.”

TfGM has said it will have an outline plan of action ready for the Government by January, and that any scheme must in place by 2020 to avoid air quality fines.

Added Downes: “Business needs time to prepare for any big changes, and there needs to be mechanisms in place to help those firms comply, such as vehicle scrappage schemes.

"This is very rushed and a lot of businesses will quite rightly be worried. Some clarity would be a very welcome early Christmas present.”

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