More than 40 companies have written to Rishi Sunak calling on the chancellor to lay the foundations for a UK-wide hydrogen strategy to power the country’s post-coronavirus recovery.
The companies, which include industrial giants such as Anglo American, Bosch, Equinor, Siemens and EDF, said they were ready to invest £1.5bn in hydrogen fuel projects around the country.
The letter said: “As you look to design a post-COVID recovery, we encourage you to focus on creating high-skilled, green jobs, in sectors that will be critical to the future economy, such as low-carbon energy, transport and heavy industry”.
It added that the measures would be “wholly complementary to the Government’s levelling-up agenda and long-term decarbonisation goals”.
The companies behind the letter have a combined value of £100bn and employ 100,000 people in the UK.
Last week Germany set out an initial draft of its new €9bn hydrogen plan, with the European Union set to launch a continent-wide approach this month.
Globally, the low-carbon technology is expected to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050, and support 30m jobs.
Baroness Brown, vice-chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said that the UK “can’t afford to miss the boat on hydrogen”.
She said: “The UK missed the boat on wind technology and missed the boat on batteries. We can’t afford to miss the boat on hydrogen.
“I strongly agree that the UK urgently needs a hydrogen strategy, as there are too many small, piecemeal funds and projects.
“We need some serious private and public funding, and a coordinated effort between government and industry, to kickstart and grow a green-job-creating hydrogen economy across the country”.
The letter argues that the UK can become a world-leader in the technology, thus encouraging future investment into the country.
Alex Sopel, Labour MP and chair of the net zero all-party parliamentary group, agreed that “now is the time to seize the initiative”.
Also today the Railway Industry Association called for the government to start investing in hydrogen and battery trains to “spur on” the economic recovery.
David Clarke, the RIA’s technical director, said: “Alongside a rolling programme of electrification for intensively used routes, hydrogen and battery technology can help decarbonise branch lines across the network, reducing the use of diesel trains.
“The technology already exists, but what is now needed is a commitment to a fleet order”.
Engineering giant Alstom, which was another co-signee of the letter to the chancellor, has developed the technology for one such hydrogen train with rolling stock firm Eversholt.
The government has set 2040 as the date for the phase-out of diesel from the UK’s train network, but there are roughly 2,500 rail vehicles which need replacing by that point.