Reeves calls for “ambitious” hydrogen targets to increase UK energy security

Katie Neame

Rachel Reeves has urged the government to be “more ambitious” in its targets for hydrogen energy and emphasised the “crucial role” it could play in increasing energy security in the UK.

On a visit to a Northern Gas Network site in Gateshead on Thursday, the Shadow Chancellor visited one of the company’s ‘Hydrogen Homes’, the first of their kind in the UK.

The Labour frontbencher said: “We’re uniquely exposed to the global gas crisis, because of a decade of dither and delay from the Conservatives.

“They’ve failed to meet the vast potential of British renewable and nuclear energy, failed to make more homes warm and well-insulated and failed to properly regulate our energy market, leading to dozens of energy companies going bust.

“Hydrogen has a crucial role to play in heating homes, powering industry and creating good jobs here in the UK. The government needs to be more ambitious with its targets and trials to help grow this key sector and meet our energy needs in a lower carbon world.

“The fact that the North East is going to be hit harder once again underlines how it’s all talk and no action on levelling up from this government. Businesses and the economy in the North East are crucial to our economic recovery – this is not the time to put yet another burden on them.

“It’s time to get a grip. The Chancellor must halt the National Insurance hike before it’s too late, and look again at a one-off windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producer profits to cut home energy bills by up to £600.”

The ‘Hydrogen Homes’ are fitted with hydrogen gas appliances including cookers, hobs, fires and boilers. Reeves travelled to the site by hydrogen bus and fried an egg on a hydrogen-powered stove.

The Shadow Chancellor met with GMB members during her visit. The union has called for more investment in hydrogen, arguing that it could be distributed through the existing gas network, protecting jobs in the gas industry, and play a role in the UK’s transition to net zero.

GMB senior organiser Chris Jukes said: “This government’s lack of any kind of coherent energy strategy has left us in the grip of a cost of living crisis so gruesome, millions of workers can’t afford to put the heating on.

“The systematic dismantling of the UK’s gas storage capacity has left households at the mercy of global markets and despotic regimes. Hydrogen fuels offer a genuine hope for the future – a chance to safeguard jobs and industry whilst reducing our carbon footprint.

“We can protect the existing gas infrastructures while protecting well-paid, unionised gas jobs here in the North East. Hydrogen is crucial to meeting our net zero targets and crucial for ensuring a proper transition for gas workers.”

Concerns have been raised about the use of hydrogen to heat homes. Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson said: “The cost of re-engineering all the infrastructure, re-engineering all the boilers, and the inefficiency of turning hydrogen from a renewable source into a heating product for a domestic home is just not going to work.”

In a piece for LabourList in February, Labour MP Barry Gardiner wrote: “Green hydrogen production, using renewable electricity, is the best and cleanest way, though it is also more expensive and hardly registers yet as a full-scale production process.

“Other methods of production like blue hydrogen are more common, but they generate greenhouse gas emissions in their own right. We need a genuine and realistic strategy to ensure green hydrogen develops a cheaper and more sustainable production model.”

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