A live Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research Hub webinar to launch an exciting new white paper took place on 4 June and was attended by over 270 attendees from across the world. Lead author Dr Paul Dodds (UCL) gave a fascinating talk about opportunities for the UK to develop and secure economic opportunities associated with the hydrogen and fuel cell market, both at home and abroad, as part of the government’s focus on clean growth. The report assessed the strength of the sector and recommended actions to develop an export-focused hydrogen and fuel cell industry.
The talk, chaired by Professor Nigel Brandon (Imperial College London) was followed up by discussion from panellists Suzanne Ellis (Johnson Matthey) and Dr David Hart (E4Tech). A Q&A session ran by co-chair Professor Nilay Shah (Imperial) rounded off the event.
Several recent reports have identified a number of key roles for hydrogen and fuel cells in the future. Fuel cells could power heavy-duty cars and trucks, and even cars and trains. Hydrogen could heat homes and offices using the existing gas networks, power industry, provide flexible peak electricity generation, and integrate renewable generation into the electricity system.
Dr Dodds said: ’Hydrogen and fuel cells are expected to have an important role in the journey to net zero emissions. The UK’s hydrogen and fuel cell industry is small, but has some world-leading technologies and is export-focused. We have identified a series of actions to grow the sector by fostering a UK market, and by creating and putting into practice a strategic vision.’
The report surveyed 196 companies across the full hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain. 66% of respondents export goods and services into the growing global market and the majority work with UK universities, due to their broad expertise and world-class research. However there are challenges relating to finance for growth, a small UK market and a shortage of skilled labour.
The report argues that there are opportunities for the UK to build on the world-class fuel cell technologies of these companies, taking a lead in developing a low-carbon hydrogen economy as an export industry. To do this, the UK will need to foster a market for fuel cells in the short term and bulk low-carbon hydrogen in the longer term. A strategic vision for the future is needed with a clear owner. The report recommends that separate strategies be created for hydrogen and fuel cells, and these will need to balance domestic decarbonisation needs and export growth opportunities.
There is a need to create a sustainable business environment with a diverse range of companies that interact through both competition and cooperation. This will need to be underpinned by a larger skilled workforce, better access to research funding for growth, and an appropriate regulatory and institutional framework.
Project lead: Paul E. Dodds
Authors: Paul E. Dodds, Anthony Velazquez Abad, Will McDowall, Gerard I. Fox
Please cite this paper as: Dodds P. E., Velazquez Abad A., McDowall W., Fox G. I. (2020) Opportunities for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to contribute to clean growth in the UK. H2FC SUPERGEN, London, UK.