East Anglia 'could become major hydrogen energy producer'

Hydrogen East's 'Hydrogen Vision'

Hydrogen East's hydrogen vision for the East of England - Credit: Hydrogen East

East Anglia could be set to play a major role in the roll-out of hydrogen technology in the UK as the country looks to clean energy alternatives, according to a new regional body.

Hydrogen East has unveiled a plan for the region to host a first-of-its-kind hydrogen cluster bringing core electrolyser projects together, says Hydrogen East,  which is focused on bringing those interested in the technology together.

It says Norfolk and Suffolk in particular can play a big part in bringing clean hydrogen to the fore. Hydrogen is seen among other things as a potential successor to carbon-emitting natural gas, which provides much of the UK's heating and cooking energy.

"The East is a forerunner in the race to net zero, with its hydrogen capabilities already being spoken about in Westminster," it said. 

Waveney MP Peter Aldous set out a vision for a future hydrogen economy in a speech in the Houses of Parliament on June 14.

In it, he called for a sufficiently flexible framework to enable smaller scale projects in areas such as the East of England to be able to realise their full potential.

"In East Anglia we have a real opportunity to be a major producer, user and exporter of hydrogen. We have an abundance of resources, infrastructure—both on land and at sea—that can be readily retrofitted, and developers keen to step up to the plate, provided that the right policies are in place. That way, we can not only more readily realise our decarbonisation goals but create new and exciting jobs for local people," he said. 

The region is already home to other low carbon energy technologies - including offshore wind farms owned by energy giants ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall. A new nuclear plant - Sizewell C - is also planned for the Suffolk coast.

Hydrogen East says it wants to lead the development of a clean hydrogen cluster in the East of England, with a proposal for six “core” electrolyser sites across Norfolk and Suffolk. This would pave the way for developing and improving infrastructure as demand for clean hydrogen grows.

Nigel Cornwall, director for Hydrogen East, said: “Hydrogen is such a versatile element and, with the ability to be deployed across a variety of sectors, we should be looking to it as a powerful tool that can aid us in the transition to Net Zero.

“It should be considered as a complement to electrification and increased roll-out of renewable generation. Already, a number of demonstrator projects are on-going around the country testing hydrogen for heat, power and transport in regions such as Aberdeen and Teesside.

“Here in the East, we need to establish our hydrogen pathway in a way that aligns with its distinct characteristics, including pathways into nuclear power, offshore wind and major energy hubs like Bacton."

Hydrogen East general manager Andy Holyland said the East of England had always been a key contributor in delivering the nation’s energy requirements and the integration of hydrogen "will only further bolster this position".

“Through analysis of local assets and data and continued engagement with local stakeholders, a cluster could identify opportunities whereby concept designs illustrating viability can be produced," he said.

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"Supply and demand could be balanced and add real value. In addition, projects will be de-risked through the establishment of multi-stakeholder collaboration, engineering studies and demonstration projects. Cluster commitments and guidance would support further research, developing business models, raising investment and sourcing appropriate funding.

"Through the clean hydrogen cluster, the hydrogen economy could be scaled and grown over time to maximise potential and build bespoke energy networks.

“Through the development of a hydrogen cluster, we can create touchpoints with a variety of different sectors, supply-chains, and organisation types, ensuring the East of England leads the way and doesn’t accept the prospect of being an adopter of second or third generation technology and assets."

Hydrogen East is inviting anyone interested in joining a consortium focused on hydrogen production to contact it.