The Hydrogen Moment: HI-ACT thought-piece

Professor Paul Dodds from University College London (UCL) provides a pragmatic analysis of the recent UK hydrogen strategy announcement. Focusing on the key developments, Dodds explores the practical implications for energy, technology, and sustainability. Additionally, the thought-piece sheds light on the role of HI-ACT in supporting the UK government’s efforts in advancing the hydrogen agenda.

The UK Government made a number of hydrogen announcements on 14 December 2023, all of which contribute to developing a market for hydrogen in the UK. The development of a market is a key step to enable successful innovation. Without market share, UK companies cannot sustainably develop their technologies and test them with consumers in order to improve them (and export them).

The UK Government announced support for 11 new hydrogen production plants worth £2bn over the next 15 years, and launched the second round of this subsidy scheme to support another 875 GW of hydrogen production. These will provide a supply of hydrogen to sites across the UK but will not yet create an open market. The UK Hydrogen Strategy was updated in December and the production roadmap and a pathway for transport and storage of hydrogen aim to develop a market. Moreover, a low carbon hydrogen standard is already operating to ensure the new plants produce low-carbon hydrogen, and a certification scheme is being created to enable low-carbon hydrogen to be traded on an open market.

The decision to support blending of up to 20% hydrogen with natural gas across the UK means that many people could use hydrogen as a fuel in their homes in the future. On the other hand, the hydrogen village trial at Redcar was withdrawn, joining the abandonment of Whitby last year and calling into question the future of the hydrogen for heating programme on which a strategic decision is planned in 2026.

HI-ACT, and our sister hub UK-HyRES are contributing novel research to provide a foundation for hydrogen energy systems. HI-ACT is examining what we can learn from the village trials and is considering hydrogen infrastructure needs and regulatory challenges over the next decade. While government support is very welcome, it’s important that we build on this support by investing in the next generation of hydrogen technologies that will be on the market in the 2030s and 2040s.

Professor Paul Dodds’ thought-piece provides a practical examination of the UK’s hydrogen strategy, focusing on its implications for energy, technology, and sustainability. It was originally written for the Joint HI-ACT & UK-HyRES newsletter. To sign up to our newsletter, please click the link here

Author: Prof Paul Dodds, University College London (UCL)