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Climate groups warn fossil fuel lobby trying to capture government hydrogen policy

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Oil refinery and gas processing plant in desert marked with hydrogen sign H
Oil refinery and gas processing plant in desert marked with hydrogen sign H. Photo by Alexey Rezvykh on Adobe.
  1. Leading climate groups warn business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that industry capture of hydrogen policy and government support of blue, fossil fuel-based hydrogen risks keeping the UK hooked on fossil gas.
  2. Instead, the groups call on the government to use the forthcoming Hydrogen Strategy to focus public investment in green hydrogen – produced using renewables.
  3. Government should focus on energy efficiency and heat pumps for buildings to hit emission targets, rejecting fossil fuel industry lobbying for blending of blue hydrogen into the gas grid or mandating of hydrogen ready boilers.

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Leading climate groups have written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, warning him that government policy on hydrogen risks keeping the UK addicted to fossil fuels. They are concerned that the UK Government’s hydrogen strategy will be warped by a lobbying campaign from the fossil fuel industry.

The Government is due to publish a Hydrogen Strategy in the Spring, with the fuel touted as a solution to decarbonising many parts of the UK economy. But the groups, which include E3G, WWF and Greenpeace, say that the Government should focus on supporting green hydrogen, produced using renewables, and not blue hydrogen, produced from fossil fuels, with some of the emissions buried. Blue hydrogen production is not zero emissions due to methane leaks and limitations with Carbon Capture and Storage technologies.

Most Government investment so far has been directed at blue hydrogen. A recent parliamentary question showed that around 75% of public hydrogen investment in the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy is allocated for blue hydrogen projects. The gas industry is leading calls for Government to focus on blue hydrogen – locking the UK into using fossil fuel infrastructure – and to reduce public investment in green hydrogen development. This has led to questions on whether the current approach is compatible with the UK’s new climate targets.

The climate groups have also called on the Government not to blend hydrogen into the gas grid or mandate ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers nationwide, measures proposed by the fossil fuel industry. They consider such moves a ‘Trojan Horse’, used by the gas industry to lock the UK into high levels of blue hydrogen infrastructure, which risks increasing energy bills. A study in Europe recently concluded that decarbonising heat using hydrogen could cost twice as much for consumers as using heat pumps.

Green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy, could utilise the UK’s vast offshore wind potential. The groups recommend that the government focus its green hydrogen investment in industrial hubs located to benefit from offshore wind power in the North Sea. By investing in green hydrogen and offshore wind, alongside skills and retraining for gas workers, the Hydrogen Strategy could be critical in addressing regional inequalities and help ensure an equitable energy transition.

Signatories to the letter

E3G, Greenpeace UK, WWF, Friends of the Earth, MCS Foundation, Possible, Architects Climate Action Network

Quote

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Adviser at E3G said:

“The Government’s Hydrogen Strategy and future public investment must focus on green hydrogen, produced from renewables – and avoid the risks associated with blue hydrogen made from fossil fuels. To shift away from high carbon infrastructure, the Government must resist this potential Trojan Horse from the fossil fuel lobby.

 

Hope in hydrogen must not be clouded by hype, particularly when it comes to heating our homes. The Government must not block near-term progress on cheaper, more effective and readily available solutions of energy efficiency, heat pumps and renewable heat networks.”

Doug Parr, Policy Director at Greenpeace UK said:

“Hydrogen produced from renewables is the next big international clean technology which will ultimately get the world off fossil fuels. It’s therefore worrying that the UK government instead seems more intent on producing hydrogen from gas coupled with the unproven technology of carbon capture and storage. Carbon capture isn’t zero carbon and at scale has systematically failed after decades of trying. Any strategy that relies on it risks, at best, being poor value for money, and at worst ending up dead in the water. The potential for renewable energy production in the UK is vast so, instead of wasting taxpayer money attempting to reheat suboptimal technology, the government should focus on the clean option from the get-go.”

Read the letter in full here.

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