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OPINION: Four take aways on developing a North West hydrogen economy

This week is the UK’s first ever Hydrogen Week – a national campaign raising awareness of the evolving role of hydrogen as a low carbon source of energy and heat.

Cumbria is playing a key role in the North West’s ambition to develop a thriving hydrogen economy. Leaders from across the private and public sector gathered for a landmark conference in Liverpool this week, among them Ian Wheeler, our Head of Clean Energy.

Here’s his four key takeaways on why it’s such an opportunity for Cumbria…

1. It’s all about momentum

“There’s so much happening in the North West and Cumbria, from HyNet’s industrial cluster and the rollout of hydrogen buses in Liverpool, to Carlton Power’s plans for the Barrow Green Hydrogen project working with Kimberly-Clark in Cumbria.

“It’s all about maintaining that momentum… ensuring our region leads the way in creating a joined-up hydrogen economy and securing the investment needed from both Government and the private sector.”

2. Hydrogen will be critical to decarbonising our industries

“Hydrogen is a fantastic solution to this major challenge. It’s less disruptive for businesses to switch from natural gas to hydrogen, whether for heat or to power industrial processes. It will provide a direct replacement for natural gas… critical for users that would struggle to electrify their processes.

“The potential to rollout hydrogen as an energy source to Cumbria’s manufacturers is immense, with work already underway to make it a reality.”

3. We need more hydrogen infrastructure

“But, in order to make hydrogen happen, we need more infrastructure. Whether production, storage or transportation of hydrogen, a joined-up infrastructure network will be critical to scaling up usage of the low carbon alternative in Cumbria.

“Part of the debate is about the different methods of hydrogen – often categorised as different colours of the rainbow … think blue, green and pink hydrogen. Whilst application and use of hydrogen is happening now, new solutions to scaling up production are still being developed and we’ll need a mix until sources of green hydrogen (from renewable sources) can dominate.”

4. A holistic energy mix is the only way to reach net zero

“Our Clean Energy Strategy sets out how hydrogen will be a key growth and decarbonisation opportunity for Cumbria. But, it’s not the only answer.

“Hydrogen reaches the areas and users that other clean energy types cannot reach. It has some obvious applications, from heavy industry and as a fuel for HGVs, to “return to base” public transport such as buses.

“However, it needs to be part of a holistic energy mix in Cumbria. Our county already punches way above its weight when it comes to clean energy generation and exportation.

“With an increased focus on homegrown energy and national energy security, hydrogen will without doubt play a critical role in our county’s net zero future.”

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