Hydrogen as the future – UAE and UK innovation?

Hydrogen is front and centre of the net zero conversation, with COP26 just having taken place, governments’, industry and citizens alike all trying to understand the take aways around how to be more sustainable and what sort of lifestyle changes we can make to help save the planet and make decisions to reverse the damage done to the climate. Hydrogen is something that is being looked at globally as a sustainable source of energy, although this in itself can be misleading as hydrogen can be produced utilized using fossil fuels and only in October did a startup win the Earthshot prize around producing sustainable hydrogen, AEM Electrolyzer uses technology to turn renewable electricity into emission free hydrogen gas. With many governments looking at ways to utilize hydrogen innovation in their future net zero plans, for transport and energy, this is a topic which can foster some exciting partnerships between countries.

The United Arab Emirates announce in early October 2021, a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050, and would oversee 600 billion dirhams ($163 billion) in investment in renewable energy. They are the first gulf country to make such an announcement and already have a number of really exciting projects in the pipeline. Both the UAE and UK aim to become global exporters of hydrogen and whilst they might be in competition, is this also a great excuse for collaboration and partnership? The ‘Producer & Hub’ strategy could add up to AED 32 billion annually to Dubai’s GDP by 2050, create over 120,000 jobs between now and 2050, and offset CO2 emissions equivalent to 84 days per year of the UAE’s crude oil production by 2050.

In August 2021, the UK launched a vision, which is the first-ever vision to kick start a world-leading hydrogen economy, set to support over 9,000 UK jobs and unlock £4 billion investment by 2030. The UK’s first-ever Hydrogen Strategy drives forward the commitments laid out in the Prime Minister’s ambitious 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, done by setting the foundation for how the UK government will work with industry to meet its ambition for 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – the equivalent of replacing natural gas in powering around 3 million UK homes each year as well as powering transport and businesses, particularly heavy industry.

As part of this, BP, ADNOC and Masdar unveiled plans in September 2021 to develop 2GW of low carbon hydrogen across hubs in the UK and the UAE, which they say could meet a significant amount of the UK Government’s 5GW of hydrogen production by 2030 target. BP revealed in March it is targeting 1GW of hydrogen production by 2030 in the UK as it announced plans for what it says will be the Britain’s largest blue hydrogen production facility.

Connected Places Catapult is looking at the decarbonization of HGVs, Zero Emission flight infrastructure, which includes TRIG competition and Clean maritime demo (where we are part of 4 IUK consortiums – although not all are focused on hydrogen, some will be electrification). Other Catapults, like the Energy Systems Catapult are heavily involved in looking at the future of hydrogen in the UK and the importance of innovation

In terms of opportunities of how we can innovate the future of mobility and the built environment and also energy systems, using hydrogen, the connected places catapult is looking at a number of hydrogen related projects working with the Department for Transport on aviation infrastructure and on the hydrogen innovation hub . Utilizing UAE and UK is strong ties , there could be a real opportunity for partnership around hydrogen in terms of development of policy and regulations but also of launching test beds and demonstrators around multimodal transports which might utilize hydrogen and create shared learning and opportunities for SMEs in both countries. The UAE is a world-leader in innovation and forward thinking, just look at Expo 2020! But could there be an exciting focus on collaboration around hydrogen use-case development and strengthen the ties between the UK and UAE even further? Time will tell, but with the UAE, where there is a will, there is a way and there is a lot to be gained from collaboration and working together on something so exciting and important!