Whose rules are we playing by?
15th Mar 2021
When I first started work, a colleague was asked to timetable his day, and for a sizeable chunk he wrote “thinking time”. Now in the 1980s car industry, this wasn’t what his manager wanted to see or expected but “thinking time” has always been in my mind – usually confined to train journeys and the like. But I confess to having spent time thinking about the narrative that decarbonisation is set in and who sets the rules of the debate.
So for any discussions about a hydrogen future, the objections are raised thick and fast. Where will it come from? How will it be distributed? What are the costs? Is it safe? All fair questions to be asked. But what about the alternatives? It is as if they are not judged by the same criteria.
Where will all our zero-carbon electricity come from? Is the distribution system capable of transporting it? How much will it cost consumers? What about increased demand from heat and transport? None of these seem to trouble some policymakers in the same way as it does for hydrogen. Why is this? Are there different standards being applied – I’d argue yes. Let me give you just one example.
Blue hydrogen production, with CCUS, apparently relies on untested technology, namely carbon capture. But gas back-up to renewable power generation, with CCUS, is accepted without challenge.
Go on then, I’ll give you another. I’ve been told hydrogen is years away from having an impact, so we should ignore it and settle for technologies that exist now. But they won’t run on zero-carbon electricity for at least a decade. Just who is setting these rules?
Modellers only consider UK-generated green hydrogen when they conclude there isn’t enough to heat homes, ignoring the global interest in hydrogen that the government are keen to export UK technology into. Fundamentalists in the debate deserve to be ignored. More mature reflection suggests all ways of decarbonisation pose challenges, all will create upheaval, all will cost huge sums of cash but the rules of engagement, of debate, should at the very least be the same.
Mike Foster, CEO