Scotland confirms plan for 25GW of hydrogen from offshore wind by 2045

Green hydrogen produced using offshore wind is at the centre of a winning bid for ‘freeport’ status from Inverness and Cromarty Firth in Scotland, which aims to build a floating offshore wind manufacturing sector.

The Scottish Government hopes offshore wind will boost green hydrogen (pic credit: Ken Jack/Getty Images)
The Scottish Government hopes offshore wind will boost green hydrogen (pic credit: Ken Jack/Getty Images)

In January the site was selected as a so-called ‘green freeport’ by the Scottish and UK government, alongside a second port in the Firth of Forth. The two green freeport plans will be supported by up to £52 million (€59 million) in start-up funding and other incentives.

In addition to offshore wind manufacturing, the green freeport will focus on green hydrogen and creating a new innovation cluster. It is part of the North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme, supported by Opportunity Cromarty Firth, ScottishPower and Storegga - which recently announced plans to develop one of the UK’s largest green hydrogen electrolysers with a capacity of 30MW in its first phase.

The Scottish Government highlighted the potential of its huge offshore wind resource to power hydrogen production in a new draft energy strategy published for consultation in January. The document outlined Scotland’s potential pipeline of more than 38GW of offshore wind projects and set out a renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production ambition of 5GW by 2030 and 25GW by 2045.

A separate Hydrogen Action Plan published in December said this would be achieved by “unlocking Scotland’s vast offshore wind potential, resulting in Scotland producing large-scale renewable hydrogen that is competitively priced within a growing European market”.

The Scottish government wants to take advantage of the supply chain and infrastructure benefits to the Scottish economy derived from taking a leading role in hydrogen production. It identified opportunities both in northern Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region, and in the south.

The Highlands and Islands region is said to offer significant opportunities for renewable hydrogen production “through repurposing and diversifying key oil and gas terminals, and capitalising on the region’s vast offshore wind resource”.

The South of Scotland, home to critical cross-border [with England and Wales] energy transmission infrastructure, is said to have “the potential to house hydrogen infrastructure”. It currently exports power but imports hydrocarbons for heat and transport.

The Scottish government pledged to support the renewable electricity and hydrogen sectors via existing and new market mechanisms, and to use its existing powers to support international trade in renewables and renewable hydrogen, as well as to seek new powers for consenting in the offshore marine environment.

Michael Matheson MSP, and cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport in the Scottish Government, told a recent Westminster government committee hearing that he saw the potential for Scotland to be a leading nation in Europe for hydrogen export. “It is critical we move quickly to cement that position,” he said.

He said Scotland’s recent offshore wind leasing round placed the country ahead of others and able to move forward “at quite a considerable pace”.

The Scottish Government’s powers in these areas are limited by its devolution agreement with the UK government in Westminster, but the UK government itself is under pressure to invest more in growing a green hydrogen industry.

A recent report from the cross-party parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee flagged growing “international interest in demonstrably low-carbon hydrogen”, and the opportunity it offers the UK.

“The government should set out how it intends to support the development in the UK of green hydrogen projects at scale during this decade, to ensure that green hydrogen can be produced in the UK and so it can become cost-competitive with blue hydrogen,” the report added.

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