Stephen Wyatt, director of research and innovation at Catapult offshore renewable energy, was prepared to go further than the minister, saying that he did believe this could be the start of a hydrogen economy. He says that if the Government’s plan to garner 75 gigawatts of offshore electrical power goes ahead, there will be a requirement for 200 terawatt hours of hydrogen to buffer that generation supply.
“We’re trying to put offshore wind capacity into places where there is no grid,” he said, “and all the analysis points to hydrogen being an important enabler.”
Further he makes a wider point that, while Government is obsessed with energy self-sufficiency, hydrogen allows the Middle East states to create solar electricity and turn it into hydrogen at least as efficiently; Milford Haven’s long experience in handling vast quantities of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) could mean it will continue to be an important point of importation of fuel gas, only hydrogen instead of LNG.
While hydrogen was previously regarded as the Voldemort of energy sources (it should never be named, particularly by the Department for Transport), Government is gradually realising that as John Armitt, the formidable head of the National Infrastructure Board, said last autumn: “If we don’t [have a hydrogen strategy], zero carbon is not going to happen. The hydrogen question is critical and we are constantly urging Government to step up the pace, provide more leadership.”
While the UK continues to drag its feet in recognising hydrogen as a road fuel, Europe isn’t so reticent and has been investing hard in the technology. In her speech at the IAA in September outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel praised the German car makers’ moves into pure electric cars, but warned: “We must not be premature, we must not be biased in focussing on specific technologies. We ought to tap the full potential of all promising innovations.
“Electromobility will be a crucial pillar, but also other options such as hydrogen and synthetic fuels could be helping to alleviate the burden on the climate.”
On this evidence it looks as though Wales is in the vanguard of this thinking in the UK…