The quest to place Greater Brighton at the heart of the UK hydrogen revolution has begun with innovators, researchers, businesses and politicians of all parties uniting to back the bid.
More than 200 people attended the virtual launch of Hydrogen Sussex last week as the drive for the UK to reach net zero carbon status by 2050 steps up a gear.
The aim of the newly-formed group is to bring together those working in the field to ensure the City Region and wider area is well placed to support and stimulate the development of clean alternatives for some of the highest emitters that are also critical for the UK economy.
The switch to planes, ships, lorries, and buses away from fossil fuels would not only reduce emissions and improve air quality, but create jobs, encourage innovation and support inward investment.
Those present heard how the south east – and Greater Brighton in particular – was well placed to lead the UK effort, thanks to its high population density, proximity to London and Europe, and sunny, windy and coastal climate.
The next stage for the group will be to promote two clear aims: support the production of hydrogen and promote the development and uptake of hydrogen vehicles.
Work on both is progressing at pace with plans including a new hydrogen plant at Shoreham Port and the world’s first commercially-led deployment of fuel cell buses in Crawley.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council and Greater Brighton Economic Board’s lead on Green Growth, said: “I’m delighted to support the launch of Hydrogen Sussex, which is key towards the drive for zero carbon economy and placing Greater Brighton at the forefront of the hydrogen revolution.
“Bringing together all the important partners, the new group will support this game-changing technology. There’s huge potential to assist our City Region’s journey to net zero, drastically improve air quality locally and provide substantial economic benefits to the City Region and the wider Sussex region as we recover from the pandemic.
“This is the first step of many to develop our region as a UK leader in this field. There is much to do but this has launched us off the starting block.”
Hydrogen Sussex grew out of the Greater Brighton Energy Plan which launched in 2020.
Its broad membership, led by the Greater Brighton, has world leading thinkers, engineers and enterprises, including local authorities, universities, a world leading engineering firm, airports, ports, buses, major consultancies, utilities companies, Coast to Capital LEP, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The work also backs the GB10, Greater Brighton’s 10 pledges on the environment, which includes commitments to promote clean fuel.
Opening the meeting, Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, said: “Hydrogen is critical to the green industrial revolution and has potential to make an impact at a local national and global level. Given our location close to London and Europe, we are really well placed to be leading on this.
“It will be a challenging task ahead but – as the development of a COVID vaccine has shown – with the right purpose and right people we can achieve what some people may think is impossible. I look forward to following the progress of Hydrogen Sussex.”
Abigail Dombey, Chair of Hydrogen Sussex said: “We are compelled to move at an unprecedented pace to deliver the innovation, investment, regulation and the market environment that will enable the required step change towards net zero.
“Our vision is for Sussex to become a leading Hydrogen region in hydrogen production and the development and uptake of hydrogen vehicles. Hydrogen is not just an energy and emissions reduction opportunity; it could also have an important role in generating new economic opportunities in the region.”
Hydrogen Sussex has already helped facilitate conversations and projects between members.
Brighton & Hove Buses and engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo are now working together on a project to convert existing buses to hydrogen fuel cells.
The bus company is planning to introduce 54 hydrogen buses in Crawley with Metrobus; this would be a world first commercially led application in the bus industry and the largest deployment of fuel cell buses in Europe.
Steve Dyke, Managing Director of Ricardo Automotive and Industrial said: “Ricardo is already working with a range of clients on hydrogen and fuel cell technology, providing clean efficient solutions which reduce carbon and noxious emissions across a wide range of sectors.”
“We are investing £2.5million in a hydrogen development and test facility at our Shoreham Technical Centre in West Sussex. Our plan is to grow a globally recognised centre of excellence for hydrogen, defossilised fuels and electrified transport engineering in the south-east of the UK.
“It will be at the heart of a local hydrogen eco-system consisting of technology development, supply and use of hydrogen. Through Hydrogen Sussex, we want to bring together industrial partners, local universities, utility companies, transport operators, and policy makers and draw on their capabilities as part of a unique collaborative hub.”
The bid to encourage the development of hydrogen comes as one the group’s members, Shoreham Port, announces it has begun work on an ambitious new partnership with H2evolution to create a green hydrogen hub.
Pending planning, it could be operational by 2024 and generate 2,400 tonnes of hydrogen a year – enough to power 300 buses and avoid 42,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Tom Willis, Chief Executive at Shoreham Port commented “Through the creation of our hydrogen hub, which will supply zero emission green hydrogen, Shoreham Port can form part of the solution to the region’s net-zero challenges.
“As a community organisation we would like to work with everyone to make this new stage of the Port’s growth a success. The new plant will be clean, quiet and create good quality jobs at the Port and within the wider community.”