Hydrogen industry investment could bring thousands of jobs to Yorkshire, says Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has called for improved investment in the hydrogen industryKeir Starmer has called for improved investment in the hydrogen industry
Keir Starmer has called for improved investment in the hydrogen industry
Thousands of high-skilled jobs could be created in Yorkshire through Government investment in the hydrogen industry, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Sir Keir visited a terminal operated in Easington, East Yorkshire, by energy company Centrica who have put forward £1.6bn plans to transform their former Rough reservoir gas storage facility in the North Sea into somewhere to hold low-carbon hydrogen fuel.

Centrica has previously said converting the site, which is 19 miles off the Yorkshire coast and was closed to gas storage in 2017, requires Government backing through a regulated support model but has the potential to create 350 permanent jobs and support thousands more in the construction industry.

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Labour say the Government’s current investment in hydrogen development is dwarfed by the amounts being committed in France and Germany, while it has pledged to spend £28bn a year on climate measures.

Sir Keir said: “The Government should be investing at scale in hydrogen, they are not doing it. What Centrica needs, what the sector needs more than anything, is a government that is clear in its mission with a long term strategy and investment at scale. We haven’t got that at the moment.

“Hydrogen is both obviously a challenge but it’s a huge opportunity. I saw the potential myself today.

“There’s this huge opportunity in relation to hydrogen because of our natural resources but it is an opportunity that I fear the Government will miss because it lacks the strategy and the ambition.

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“What we want to do is to make sure there is proper, long term equality across the country.

“If there was a strategic plan for hydrogen that would provide thousands of high-quality jobs in Yorkshire.

“You can’t pretend you are levelling up while you are not investing in hydrogen sufficiently. It would in Yorkshire very good, well paid skilled jobs for now and for the next generation.”

In August, the Government set out the UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy, with the aim of ‘‘unlocking £4bn investment by 2030’’.

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Subsidies could be paid to hydrogen producers as part of Government plans to scale up the use of low-carbon fuel to cut climate emissions.

Hydrogen could account for 20-35 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050, playing a key role in cutting carbon by providing a clean alternative to oil and gas in sectors such as energy-intensive industries, power, shipping and HGV lorries, the Government said.

With hydrogen currently significantly more expensive than existing fuels to produce, subsidies are being proposed to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and the clean alternative to incentivise its production and use.

A consultation on the proposals to fund the difference between what producers can sell their hydrogen for and what it will cost them to manufacture it is being published alongside the hydrogen strategy.

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The costs of the subsidies are not yet clear and how they would be paid for – from the Treasury through general taxation or consumer levies – has not yet been decided.

The Government said its overall hydrogen strategy would support more than 9,000 jobs by 2030.

Lack of strategy 'has led to higher gas bills'

Keir Starmer said the Government’s decision in 2017 to allow the closure of the gas storage facility at Rough has contributed to higher gas prices being experienced this winter.

Analysts from HSBC have previously suggested that “the UK situation is more precarious than its European neighbours because of very limited gas storage”.

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The Labour leader said: “One of the reasons we’ve got high gas prices this winter is because the Government failed to stop the closure of the gas storage facility that is run effectively through Easington.

“Therefore the plan that was in place before 2017 where gas is bought in the summer when it’s cheaper and sold in the winter after it’s been stored would have kept prices down, but the Government didn’t step in. So the failure of strategic thinking over the last 10 years has left people across the country paying the price which is higher gas bills.”

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