North West Energy & Hydrogen Cluster unveils roadmap to drive low carbon skills development in the region, as Australian mining giants debut green hydrogen consortium
Two new projects on opposite sides of the world have this week taken a step forward in their attempts to accelerate the development of a global green hydrogen industry.
Yesterday the North West Energy & Hydrogen Cluster announced plans for a new skills roadmap, designed to highlight where skills gaps exist and where investment is needed.
The roadmap was announced alongside a new report from the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) which revealed that over £40bn could be invested in the engineering construction industry by 2050 in support of the net zero transition - with around £7bn of that potentially set to come to the North West.
The ECITB's Towards Net Zero report outlines how the UK must deploy a range of technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen, as well as attracting new talent and upskilling existing workforces in order to decarbonise the industrial and energy sectors.
Meanwhile, the skills roadmap, which is being developed by the University of Chester and Manchester Metropolitan University, aims to identify the skills requirements the region will need to respond to the government's target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The news comes in the same week as BusinessGreen revealed the London Assembly's Economy Committee is to launch a new report on how the capital can develop its skills base to support the Mayor's target to deliver a net zero city by 2030.
Emma Degg of the North West Hydrogen & Energy Cluster said the region was poised to become the UK's "first decarbonised industrial cluster", but action is needed to ensure businesses can access the right skills set to deliver cutting edge low carbon projects.
"New technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture, smart grids and renewable energy projects are already transforming the engineering construction sector in the region," she said. "The density of industries such as oil and gas, can provide complementary skills to support the transition to low carbon energy technologies and we have significant skills in salt cavern storage - something that the ECITB report highlights as an area that needs investing in."
She added that work was now underway to enhance the green skills base. "In the North West we're working with businesses, universities, colleges and training providers to prepare a roadmap for low carbon skills which will highlight where investment is needed," she said. "This is hugely important to ensuring that the skills and job opportunities stay in the UK and in the region."
The roadmap is the latest part of the North West's bid to become the UK's first net zero carbon cluster, with the Liverpool and Manchester Mayors and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) working directly alongside industry to bid for funding support from central government.
In last week's Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed £800m of funding would be provided for at least two UK CCS clusters through a new infrastructure fund.
A key part of the North West project is a plan develop a hydrogen network, which is being spearheaded by the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA).
"The Net Zero transition is a great opportunity, but it's going to require some significant investment in skills and training," said Professor Joe Howe, Chair of the NWHA, Executive Director at the University of Chester's Thornton Energy Institute and ECITB Board Member. "A lot of what needs to be implemented is not totally new technology, and already exists in some form, which is where the importance of skills comes in as we need the expertise to bridge that gap and put these technologies on site."
He added there was a particularly need to address the ageing workforce across much of the energy and infrastructure sectors. "It's important to attract young people into industry," he said. "Clean growth can offer them the real opportunity to make a difference and be an instrumental part of the battle against climate change. We need to communicate the benefits of a career in this sector and attract school leavers into industry now so we can plan for the skills requirements of the future."
The moves comes in the same week as mining industry giants Anglo American, BHP, Fortescue and Hatch announced the launch of a new Australian renewable hydrogen consortium to "de-risk and accelerate" the production of green hydrogen.
"The goal is to identify opportunities to develop green hydrogen technologies for the resources sector and other heavy industries," the group said in a statement.
"Primarily, the Consortium aims to collectively help to eliminate the obstacles to the adoption of green hydrogen technologies and encourage innovative application," it added. "The goal is to identify opportunities to develop green hydrogen technologies for the resources sector and other heavy industries, and provide a mechanism for suppliers and operators to contribute to and engage with these development activities."
Specifically, the group plans to undertake research, technology, and supply chain development, as well as piloting a range green hydrogen technologies.
Hatch has been appointed as the project management and governance facilitator for the new Green Hydrogen Consortium.
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