A report was submitted to members of the Highland Council committee last week, outlining a bold proposal for Highland to use hydrogen as a guiding factor in meeting its net zero goals and moving to a renewable, circular economy.
The report received great support from elected members for the development of a vision for the use of hydrogen in Highland, along with initial, in-principle backing for the Opportunity Cromarty Firth project as a major component of that vision.
In recognition of the rapidly emerging position for hydrogen at the national and international level, the report outlined how Highland could benefit from and support this transition, and how embracing such change could act as a catalyst for transformation and regeneration and directly support the area’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
From a decarbonisation perspective, hydrogen is a clean-burning gas that contains more energy per unit of weight than fossil fuels. In a hydrogen economy, hydrogen would be used in place of the fossil fuels which currently provide four fifths of the world’s energy supply and emit the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Once produced, hydrogen can be stored, liquefied and transported via pipelines, trucks, ships or trains. Additionally, it can be used to make fertiliser, fuel vehicles, heat homes and businesses, generate electricity or drive heavy industry.
The Opportunity Cromarty Firth project comprises various specific opportunities, with the two most pertinent detailed below:
- The Power House – Future Technology Centre – a new applied research centre, dedicated to developing floating offshore wind and green hydrogen technologies. The aim is to create a global centre of excellence and innovation. This centre is being hosted by the University of the Highlands & Islands in Alness.
- Electrolysis Facility & Hydrogen Storage – Green Hydrogen Hub – this opportunity would seek to produce hydrogen within the Cromarty Firth area from wind energy, particularly that generated by offshore windfarms in the Outer Moray Firth. Such a hub will be key to both regional and national decarbonisation plans and will provide valuable export opportunities for both expertise and technologies.
Highland Council members have also recognised that partnership working with Aberdeen City Council would successfully enable economies of scale and efficiencies to be established, along with acquiring the benefit of working in conjunction with an organisation with vast experience in this area as a result of its work to date.
At present, Aberdeen City Council has an eight-year history of hydrogen refuelling and transport applications and it is understood that they intend to approach the market in early summer for an industry partner to help develop their Hub ambitions.
The Council will now undertake work to formalise its support for the emerging hydrogen economy in Highland.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, said: “Highland’s natural and environmental assets means that it is very well-placed to work with business and community partners and support the drive to renewable energy transition and to deliver against both the climate & ecological emergencies, whilst also supporting a transition to net zero and a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She continued: “With progression of the Opportunity Cromarty Firth project, I am confident that this will play a significant role in attracting new and emerging sectors and diversifies jobs and skills – maintaining and enhancing Highland’s role as a global centre of excellence for renewable energy innovation and generation.”