Holyrood has pledged to give the hydrogen sector £100 million over the next five years in order to support a green recovery and a just transition to net zero.
The Scottish Government published its Hydrogen Policy Statement setting out how the country can become a major player in the global emerging market.
It includes an ambition to generate 5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable and low carbon hydrogen by 2030 – enough to power the equivalent of 1.8 million homes – increasing to at least 25GW by 2045.
The use of hydrogen as a fuel source is still in its relative infancy, with experts highlighting it as an area in which the oil and gas industry can help to decarbonise the economy.
It is split into two main factions; green hydrogen, which is emissions free and uses renewable power to convert water through the process of electrolysis, and blue hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas and uses carbon capture and storage to negate emissions.
The Scottish Government expects both to play an “increasingly important role” in the energy transition.
According to economic impact research, the industry has the potential to be worth up to £25 billion a year to the Scottish economy by 2045.
The publication of the statement means Scotland is the first country in the UK to set out its aims for the sector, with Westminster due to follow suit next year.
Holyrood has stressed that the document will be “regularly reviewed and refreshed” as new opportunities and challenges in the sector emerge.
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said Scotland had “all the raw ingredients necessary” to facilitate the production of low-cost hydrogen.
That includes “one of the largest concentrations of offshore engineering expertise in the world” that can harness renewable energy potential to produce the superfuel with no emissions.
Mr Wheelhouse added: “Hydrogen is rapidly emerging across the international community as a sustainable solution for the decarbonisation of the economy and a key element of the energy transition picture.
“Scotland is prepared to play its full part together with other European nations – that’s why we’re publishing this key policy statement today and investing £100 million of Scottish Government resources to stimulate the sector and its supply chain.
“Indeed, Scotland is one of the best placed nations anywhere in the world to develop competitively priced hydrogen for our own economy’s needs and to generate a surplus in supply to export to other European nations with emerging demand, but insufficient supply to meet their own needs.”
Earlier this year, Aberdeen City Council gave then green light for a new Aberdeen Hydrogen Hub, a regional collaboration project involving the local authority, Scottish Enterprise and Opportunity North East.
The project will utilise nearby offshore wind resources to kick start the growth of the hydrogen industry in the region.
In its policy statement, Holyrood said that, if successful, the model “could be suitable for replication in various regions of Scotland.”
The Granite City has so far been a world leader in hydrogen powered transport with the city recently taking receipt of the first of 15 double decker buses to be powered by the fuel.
In September, Energy Voice revealed that Aberdeen had been selected as the home for the Dolphyn project, which will be the “world’s first” offshore floating facility to produce green hydrogen.
The policy statement also highlights the work being done by energy supplier SGN on Aberdeen Vision initiative.
The programme is exploring using hydrogen from the Acorn project at the St Fergus terminal near Peterhead to decarbonise national and local gas transmission networks.
And while Mr Wheelhouse acknowledged that “no one fuel or technology” has all the answers to climate change, the superfuel has the potential to be a “very important part” of the future energy mix.
He added: “We are committed to supporting this emerging sector to deliver a transformation in how we produce, store and utilise energy and to maximising the economic benefits that the production of hydrogen can bring.”
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman and north-east MSP, Alexander Burnett, said: “I’m glad the Scottish Government are following Westminster’s revolutionary lead in thinking on renewable energy.
“This will provide important stimulus to the economy helping to accelerate recovery while creating new jobs in hydrogen across the north-east.
“It’s important the Scottish Government now sticks to its promises and ensures its climate ambitions result in climate action.”
“A big step forward”
Dick Winchester, who sits on the Scottish Government’s energy advisory board, said: “This a hugely important statement. The fact it recognises the importance of developing a hydrogen technology manufacturing sector is music to my ears. That there is real money being put behind it makes it a real opportunity, not just a political one. A big step forward.”
Mike Tholen, sustainability director at trade body Oil and Gas UK, said: “The Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Policy Statement released today recognises the critical role our industry has to play in creating a hydrogen industry, both through the expertise of our supply chain and the talents of our workforce, and in the opportunities presented by repurposing of our infrastructure.
“Investing in these new energy resources will be key to unlocking the challenge of achieving net-zero emissions across the economy. Many businesses within our industry are already actively involved in the development of such hydrogen projects, recognised by the Committee on Climate Change as an essential part of the energy mix in years to come.
“While it’s encouraging to see investments like this, today’s Hydrogen Policy Statement reiterates the importance of securing a sector deal for our industry. We will continue to work at pace with the Scottish government to ensure that our supply chain is supported throughout the transition, securing jobs and the energy supply, whilst supporting our energy communities.”
Nigel Holmes, chief executive of the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, said: “We welcome this Hydrogen Policy statement which underlines the opportunity for Scotland to be the leading hydrogen nation, and puts us on the right path to deliver net zero by 2045.
“This ambition builds on the experience and lessons learned with projects in Aberdeen, Fife, Orkney, and the Western Isles. Islands and ports will be hubs for energy innovation, bringing together large scale renewables for green hydrogen production.
“The identified capacity of 25GW of electrolysis by 2045 will produce 126TWh per year of green hydrogen across Scotland, with 32TWh to deliver Scotland’s net zero target and 94TWh of green hydrogen for export.”
Helen Melone, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “We welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Assessment and Hydrogen Policy Statement and their recognition that green hydrogen produced from renewable energy is the future.
“With 25% of Europe’s wind resource Scotland has the potential to become a global leader in green hydrogen, delivering 310,000 jobs and £25 billion of GVA by 2045.
“The Scottish Government has committed to working in partnership with industry to maximise the economic and environmental benefits which hydrogen can deliver on the road to net-zero.
“Scotland’s renewable energy industry, and in particular its offshore and onshore wind sectors, look forward to delivering green hydrogen as part of the just energy transition we must make to tackle the carbon emissions which cause climate change.”