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UK clean energy authority needed after Brexit if country is to meet net zero carbon targets

The UK government will have to ensure that clean energy and transport schemes in the British Isles continue to receive grant funding until they can stand on their own feet commercially. Once the UK leaves the EU, then the country will also no longer be a member of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU) unless special arrangements are made under a trade deal with the EU. Therefore the government will have to create its own support organisation and provide funds for hydrogen energy and transport to meet the shortfall caused by the loss of EU funding.

Projects funded by the FCHJU that have operated in the UK: are the Hydrogen Mobility Europe Project (H2ME) and the European Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles project (HyFive).

The H2ME project has supported the development of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) and Hydrogen Refuelling Stations (HRS) in several European countries. The project was launched in 2015 with €32 million funding from the FCHJU. Vehicle manufacturers involved in the project have been Daimler, SymbioFCell, Hyundai, Honda, Intelligent Energy and Nissan. Companies involved in building the refuelling infrastructure have been Air Liquide, BOC, H2Logic, ITM Power, Linde, McPhy Energy, OMV, AREVA, EIFER, H2 MOBILITY Deutschland, HYOP, Icelandic New Energy, and Communauté d’Agglomération Sarrenguemines.

In 2015 the HyFIVE project funded 12 new Mirai hydrogen powered cars manufactured by Toyota that were delivered to London, where they were used by Transport for London to carry out maintenance work between bus stops and tube stations. In 2016 the first public access hydrogen refuelling station in London was opened at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington and funded by the FCHJU and the UK Government Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). This came after ITM Power launched the UK’s first public access hydrogen refuelling station in September 2015 at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, just off the M1, Junction 33 in South Yorkshire which was funded by Innovate UK.

The UK’s future clean energy funding authority should aim to be more ambitious than the FCHJU, because every petrol station in the UK will soon need to be a hydrogen refuelling station for FCEVs and have charging points for EVs. Building the new refuelling infrastructure across the country is going to cost billions of pounds, but it will create new jobs and skills and break our dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy and energy storage are already making the smart grid a reality, and vehicle refuelling stations in a decarbonised economy will play their part.

The extent and scale of the bush fires in Australia will remind everyone that climate change is a global phenomenon, and every country must play its part to fight global warming by abandoning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. This process is not going to be easy, but countries such as China and India – which bought coal from Australia as well as mined it from their own territories – will now be looking for new clean energy sources. The UK could become a global service provider for the energy transition after Brexit, if it has enough expertise in the area of clean energy, which will connect renewable energy to energy storage to transport. This is why creating a clean energy authority in the UK is important for foreign trade, as well as enabling the country to meet its own net zero carbon targets.


©Jolyon Gumbrell 2020

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