Andy Gouldson, professor of environmental policy at Leeds University and chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, said that such investments would not only improve the environment of the region but would stimulate the economy and tackle fuel poverty.
He made his remarks at a roundtable event held jointly by The Yorkshire Post and Northern Gas Networks to discuss how best to finance the green energy revolution which is predicted to create 400,000 jobs in the region in the coming decades.
Professor Gouldson said: “Yorkshire spends over £10bn a year on its energy bill. We think it could save £2bn a year from that energy bill just by doing the cost-effective things to reduce its carbon footprint and improve efficiency.
“That would require an investment of £1.3bn a year for the next 10 years. So the massive question is how we raise that money?
“If we did that we would reduce our energy bill by £2bn a year and create 300,000 years of extra employment in the region, while at the same time tackle fuel poverty, improve public health and stimulate the economy.”
James Close, head of climate at NatWest, called the plan “a brilliant business case for investment” and added that best means to making the finances stack up to support it would be in establishing a long-term vision.
“The key to it is that we have that vision and clarity in joining all this together in a way that builds a hydrogen economy that includes production of hydrogen, the distribution of hydrogen and the use of hydrogen,” he said.
“Once that vision comes about you will begin to see it accelerate really quite quickly but in the short term you may need the feed-in tariffs that supported the offshore wind sector.”
Northern Gas Networks is currently raising finance for its plan to begin powering northern households using hydrogen by establishing a Green Transition Bond which allows the public to invest in the project.
For its chief executive Mark Horsley, the region is ideally suited to leading this shift towards low-emission heating.
“There are some fantastic strengths that we have in the Yorkshire and Humber region,” he said.
“We have the potential skills to do it, we have the geology to do it and we have the infrastructure to do it.
“But we have got to join all the dots to get it, so if we are going to produce hydrogen for industry we need to create the demand so that it goes right the way from production to end use.
“We see ourselves as the glue in the middle.”
Both Sir Roger Marsh, chair of both the Leeds City Region LEP and the NP11, and Louise Wilson, managing director of Abundance, stressed that it was essential to make the public see the benefits of the transition to green energy.
Ms Wilson said that allowing the public the chance to invest in projects like hydrogen would help with this.
“One of the biggest barriers we have got to reaching our net zero 2050 ambitions is actually engaging with the public.
“This transition is incredibly complicated, can feel really overwhelming and bewildering and people can feel a bit powerless about it.”
Sir Roger added: “We have got to win the hearts and minds of people to get them to understand that the whole net zero drive is seen as an economic, not just a societal prize, not just an inconvenience or avoidable cost.”