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Hydrogen can transform UK heating sector: lawmaker

Highlights

Hydrogen strategy can boost jobs, cut emissions

Role seen for hydrogen in heating, clean transport

London — Hydrogen can transform the UK heating sector and make a contribution to clean transport as part of the country's 2050 decarbonization strategy, lawmaker Alexander Stafford from the governing Conservative party said in a webinar Oct. 20.

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The UK government is expected to unveil a hydrogen strategy in early 2021, which is likely to form a core part of its goal to build a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, he said.

"Speed is of the essence. I think we've got a five-year window to get this right. It's a bit of a gamble, but we need to make that bet now," Stafford said in the webinar.

"We need to move quickly, and the hydrogen strategy will play into that. If we make the UK a world leader on this, we can export the technology around the world," said Stafford, who is a member of the UK's cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

"Post-Brexit and post-COVID, we will need to support our economy and create jobs and growth," he said.

The run-up to the UK hosting the COP26 UN climate talks in November 2021 is an opportunity to put in place the building blocks of a hydrogen-powered economy, he said, echoing points made by the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change, which has outlined the role of hydrogen in a decarbonized economy by 2050.

Hydrogen is also expected to feature in a UK Energy White Paper, expected before the winter.

UK-based industrial company Worcester Bosch is eying a market for hydrogen in transport as well as replacing natural gas for domestic heating in the UK, its CEO, Carl Arntzen, told the webinar.

"I think you need to create an entire skill strategy around hydrogen. We started prototyping hydrogen-powered boilers about three years ago, and there was no supply chain at that time," Arntzen said.

"But if we take a decision that hydrogen is a future energy system, we've got to get a strategy around technology and skills," he said.

The company is also looking further afield at an international market for hydrogen as the need for countries to decarbonize intensifies.

"The future is a global hydrogen economy. We can produce quantities of hydrogen locally using wind power. But long-term, a global market for hydrogen will develop, where you are producing hydrogen in the parts of the world where it is cheapest to do so, and transporting it to wherever it is needed," he said.

Hydrogen is still expensive compared with other energy fuels, but supportive regulatory frameworks and cost reductions through the scaling up of technology will enable it to become competitive, Arntzen said.

Bosch UK president Steffen Hoffmann said countries would need to coordinate to scale up the hydrogen market, particularly to develop green hydrogen from renewable energy sources.

"This goes beyond nation states," Hoffmann said.

"If you think about the amount of renewable power needed to create clean hydrogen, this will bring in Southern Europe and North African countries, with that amount of solar power needed," he said in the webinar.

"At some point, we will have to connect these strategies, and a pan-European plan [will be needed] to coordinate this -- maybe even beyond Europe," he said.