Bacton Energy Hub in my constituency of North Norfolk represents a great opportunity for the East of England to lead the charge on the UK’s clean hydrogen industry. North Norfolk is in a unique position to drive Hydrogen East’s mission to turn East Anglia into a ‘clean growth region’, bringing investment and jobs to put a rocket booster under the local economy.
Much of the net zero transition will be done through electrification. We have led the world on power decarbonisation through the rapid rollout of renewables, with the cost of offshore wind falling by around 70% between from 2015 to 2022 due to Contracts for Difference. The electric vehicle transition is well underway with one in five new cars plugging in, and the government is seeking to replicate this success with low-carbon heat through its boiler upgrade grants.
But electricity cannot do everything; we will need some zero carbon gas. This is where clean hydrogen comes in. Hydrogen will help with the hard-to-decarbonise sectors and processes such as fertiliser production or aviation and shipping, or to provide flexibility to a grid powered predominantly by cheap but intermittent renewables.
As part of the government’s hydrogen and energy security strategies, the UK is set to build several hydrogen ‘clusters’ - usually areas by the sea that are already engaged in different types of energy production, whether it’s renewable, nuclear, or fossil fuels. Bacton Energy Hub is a project of one such cluster in the East of England.
Bacton will be suitable for the production of low-carbon blue hydrogen due to the existing infrastructure that was built around oil and gas fields in the North Sea. Meanwhile, with Sheringham Shoal wind farm just off the coast and Sizewell C set to be built, it will also be a prime area for production of zero carbon green hydrogen.
The existing Bacton Gas Terminal which purifies raw natural gas is already well-connected to international gas markets, and has existing infrastructure like gas pipelines that could be repurposed to supply hydrogen to London and the South East. This means we can avoid building a whole new network from scratch, minimising disruption and lowering costs of upgrading our energy system to make it more sustainable.
The energy sector in North Norfolk is expected to receive investment totalling more than £122 billion by 2050 - a crucial chunk of which will be driven by hydrogen development. Pre-existing skilled and experienced jobs in the oil and gas sector are transferable to the emerging hydrogen production sector, and there is potential for offshore industries like hydrogen to create over 26,000 jobs by 2030 in coastal communities across the country, including East Anglia.
Hydrogen production at Bacton Energy Hub is a terrific opportunity for North Norfolk to support the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy, bringing with it hefty investment potential and job opportunities that will launch East Anglia into a new era of clean economic growth. It’s just one example of the many net zero opportunities across the country which should be seized with both hands.
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