As momentum builds around the UK’s transition to net zero carbon emissions, there’s a huge supply chain opportunity, but not without Government support, writes Myles Kitcher of Peel Environmental.

At a recent event I sat alongside business leaders from across the region to discuss the huge supply chain opportunities as the UK transitions to net zero carbon emissions.

The event was hosted by Peel Environment – part of Peel L&P – and the North West Hydrogen Alliance, alongside the Energy Industries Council. The discussion centred on the many decarbonisation initiatives already under way in the region, including Protos and leading hydrogen and carbon capture project HyNet.

2020 is the year when things are really going to happen, and they’ll have to. In the North West we have set ourselves the ambitious target of becoming the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030, which if successful could add £4bn of GVA and create thousands of jobs in the region.

Meeting the UK’s climate change objectives, regionally and nationally, is going to require innovation and new technologies, which can only be delivered through new skills, more jobs and more investment. There are some multi-million pound projects in the pipeline, and panellists at the event joined forces to call on Government to act, to ensure we have the supply chain here in the UK to make the most of this opportunity. We have to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes that were made with offshore wind, where despite being the world’s largest operator of offshore windfarms, only 50% of windfarm project costs are spent with UK companies.

This means both industry and Government investing in new technologies, supporting the supply chain and developing fit-for-purpose skills and training agendas to support a clean growth sector here in the UK.

At Protos we’ve created a test-bed for innovation and new technologies. Working with our partners at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park, we can take concepts from inception to development. This is exactly what’s happened with PowerHouse Energy, a UK first waste plastic to hydrogen technology which was developed at Thornton and with the first facility planned for Protos.

We’re going to need many more of these partnerships if the UK is going to be ready for net zero, and Government is going to need to intervene. It was recently announced that HyNet has received £13m of funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop two world leading projects – one of which will see hydrogen used to fuel manufacturing processes at Unilever and Pilkington Glass. This is a really positive step forward, but the investment required to reach net zero is going to run into many more millions.

Projects like HyNet are on the cusp of making hydrogen a mainstream reality and setting a blueprint for use internationally. The UK has a chance to be world-leaders and export skills across globe, so lets make sure we learn from the mistakes of the past and get this right.