BLOG: Hydrogen, a significant
opportunity for Scotland
Colin Lindsay

27 February 2024

To celebrate UK Hydrogen Week, we chatted with Colin Lindsay, Developer and Hydrogen Services Manager, about hydrogen and its potential for Scotland

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that immediate action is needed if we’re to avert the worst of climate change.  During last year alone, the world has felt the impact of record hot temperatures, wildfires, drought, and floods.

As UK Hydrogen Week kicks off, it’s time to take stock.  If we’re to protect our planet, we need to be bolder in our decarbonisation ambitions to support the transition to net zero.

Colin Lindsay, Developer and Hydrogen Services Manager

That’s where hydrogen comes in. The most abundant element on earth, hydrogen production, storage, and distribution are now high on the UK’s agenda – and rightly so.  Large-scale hydrogen plants have the potential to play a vital role in the energy mix.  Particularly when it comes to challenging sectors that are hard to electrify – think heavy transportation, aviation, commercial and industrial processes.

Scotland – a leading hydrogen nation

Scotland’s aim is no less impressive. With an ambition to become a leading hydrogen nation, Scotland’s target is to produce 5GW of hydrogen capacity by 2030 and 25GW by 2045 (the equivalent amount of gas consumed by over eighteen million households each year).

Considering large-scale hydrogen production does not currently exist in Scotland, that’s no mean feat.  The priority now is to scale up production – and do that quickly. With that, comes massive opportunity.

Already over sixty schemes have been identified at different stage of development; helping to form clusters of ‘hydrogen hubs’ to meet the needs of large industrial users.

And with its strategic geographic location, Scotland perfectly placed for hydrogen export to other countries in the future, including mainland Europe.   The Hydrogen Backbone Link initiative for example has been set up to explore the opportunity to connect Scotland with Germany for hydrogen export and support economic growth.

Water – a vital role, yet a climate challenge

For my part, I’ve had the privilege of supporting fledgling hydrogen projects over the last eighteen months. It’s rapidly evolving, yet an incredibly exciting industry to be working in. 

A key ingredient in hydrogen production is water – and lots of it.  Contrary to widespread belief, water in Scotland is not always easily sourced.  For most of us, it’s just a case of turning on a tap.  For large scale hydrogen needs, well, that’s something else entirely.

Most hydrogen hubs being explored are located along the east and northeast coast of Scotland, including the islands. Typically, these areas are drier and not gifted with large water storage areas such as our beautiful lochs in the west coast.  Climate change is also impacting on water scarcity.  Although infamous for its rainy climate, Scotland has experienced three of its driest summers on record.

Water – a strategic perspective

So, we need to think strategically around our water resources.  How do we manage them effectively to meet increasing demands both now and in the future? How do we balance societal and environmental needs? 

Well first off, water industry engagement with hydrogen developers at the earliest stage is key.  This is the only way we can ensure water is readily available and does not become a blocker to future development.

That’s where we come in.

We’ve been upskilling our water developer team to review all sorts of water sources to help with feasibility.  From raw water from rivers, lochs and reservoirs to potable water, sea water and final effluent from waste water treatment works, we’re exploring innovative options to deliver bespoke solutions for new hydrogen hubs while ensuring security of water supply.

One of Scottish Water’s stunning reservoirs – North Third Reservoir near Stirling

Already we’re working with hydrogen developers on two hydrogen opportunities – Whitelees, East Ayrshire (7.1MW capacity) and Cromarty,Highlands (10.6MW capacity). Both of these are part of the UK’s Hydrogen Allocation Round (HAR1) that aims to kick-start the UK’s hydrogen economy.  And there are plenty more opportunities in the pipeline.

If Scotland is to grasp this massive opportunity, we must collaborate early to ensure long-term solution development – supporting economic growth and Scotland’s cleaner, greener energy ambitions.

For more information on our water provision service click here

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