UK Hydrogen Economy

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:57 pm on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Labour, Leicester East 3:57 pm, 17th December 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, and I congratulate Alexander Stafford on securing this important debate. Climate breakdown is not a distant threat; it is happening here and now. The World Meteorological Organisation found that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. Human-caused climate change has already been proven to increase the risk of floods and extreme rainfall, heatwaves and wildfires, with dire implications for humans, animals and the environment. It is true to say that without immediate Government intervention, the urgent action required to preserve a habitable planet will be too slow. This will cause unimaginable disruption and could cost millions of lives, most immediately and sharply in global south countries, which have contributed the least to climate change.

The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that we are only as secure as the most vulnerable among us, and that rapid social and economic change really is possible. At this unprecedented moment, the Government must consider all possible interventions and regulations in order to phase out the extraction of fossil fuels and to transition to renewables as soon as scientifically possible. Hydrogen has a crucial role to play in this endeavour, as well as in providing much-needed jobs as we rebuild from the coronavirus crisis. A report released earlier this month by the Offshore Wind Industry Council suggested that the UK’s green hydrogen industry could generate £320 billion for the economy and sustain 120,000 jobs by 2050.

I was proud to be elected on a manifesto that pledged to trial and expand tidal energy and invest to reduce the cost of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production. Significant amounts of energy are lost in using electricity to produce hydrogen and then in burning hydrogen to produce electricity. The cheapest and therefore most widely used hydrogen is made from reforming fossil fuels, which involves using energy to convert fossil fuels into hydrogen and CO2. To make the process carbon neutral, that CO2 must then be removed by carbon capture and storage.

The production of green hydrogen through electrolysis is currently much more expensive. I challenge the Minister and the Government to commit to and focus their investment on making this cleaner form of hydrogen cheaper and more widely accessible. Otherwise, we risk the same fossil fuel companies that have profited from the climate crisis continuing to dominate and possibly even hampering our move towards renewable.

It is particularly vital that we introduce a zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes as part of heat decarbonisation. We must urgently roll out technologies such as heat pumps, solar, hot water and hydrogen and invest in district heat networks, using waste heat—