Scotland is on the brink of a hydrogen revolution, and the world is watching closely as the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association gathers in Aberdeen this week. With significant support from the Scottish Government, including a £90 million Green Hydrogen fund, the hydrogen industry in Scotland is set to flourish, bringing with it not only cleaner energy but also substantial economic opportunities.
The ambitions are high, and they should be. Scotland aims to produce 25GW of energy through hydrogen by 2045, a goal that could create over 300,000 jobs. Additionally, Scotland has the potential to become a significant exporter of hydrogen, potentially generating up to £25 billion annually over the same timescale. This ambitious vision holds the promise of a cleaner and more prosperous future for the country.
However, like any ambitious vision, there are challenges to overcome. One of the primary hurdles facing the hydrogen industry is the issue of geography and infrastructure. Scotland, despite its vast potential as a hydrogen producer, is geographically removed from the primary market for hydrogen energy, especially mainland Europe. The key question is how to bridge this gap and create a seamless connection between producers and consumers of clean energy.
The Hydrogen Backbone Link (HBL)
The Net Zero Technology Centre’s proposal for the Hydrogen Backbone Link (HBL) offers a potential solution to this challenge. The HBL would establish a pipeline network to transport hydrogen produced in Scotland to the European market. This initiative has the potential to meet a significant portion of Europe’s hydrogen import demand by the mid-2030s, while also supporting Scotland’s green export goals and contributing to industrial decarbonization in continental Europe. In essence, it’s a win-win situation, reducing global emissions, creating jobs, and fostering economic growth.
Urgent Actions Needed
To fully realize these opportunities, urgent actions are required on multiple fronts:
- Government Support: While the support from both the UK and Scottish governments is appreciated, further investments and partnerships are essential. The estimated cost of the HBL installation is £2.7 billion, and businesses need assurances and stability to invest at scale. Government backing is crucial to drive projects of this magnitude forward.
- International Cooperation: The hydrogen market is not confined to national borders. To establish a viable hydrogen market, a pan-European solution is imperative. Governments must collaborate and establish common standards and regulations to facilitate hydrogen export. This includes ensuring the safe and efficient transportation of hydrogen across borders. Without international cooperation, there is a risk that the physical infrastructure will become redundant, and investors may hesitate to participate.