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Barry Carruthers, Hydrogen Director at ScottishPower


Barry Carruthers

Scotland’s role in hydrogen production and the associated opportunities for decarbonisation.

I was invited to speak to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee this week as it considers Scotland’s role in hydrogen production and the associated opportunities for decarbonisation.

As with all new, emerging technologies, we need clear support from government to allow solid investment to move forward, so I was pleased to take the Committee through ScottishPower’s ambitions as leaders in green hydrogen production in the UK.

I was asked about our Whitelee site – famous for being the UK’s largest onshore windfarm – where we’ll be producing green hydrogen in 2024. It’s a first-of-a-kind project that we’ve learned so much from already. One of the benefits of producing green hydrogen at this site is that it’s a clear extension of what ScottishPower already does – 100% renewable energy generation. We will use the green electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels to power the process that creates the zero-emission green hydrogen. The added benefit in our Whitelee project is the ability to store hydrogen on site, and explore that for reliable customer supply as well as optimisation of the energy system. 

There are, of course, different ways to produce hydrogen – some of which (blue and grey) rely on natural gas (fossil fuels), which means they’re not clean. The Committee was keen to understand why ScottishPower focuses only on green hydrogen production, and again, it’s because it fits strategically with what we’re doing as a business already; we’re all about 100% renewable generation and the acceleration to a Net Zero future.

We also want to move as quickly as we can on green technology to help the country decarbonise in light of the climate emergency. And with regards to the volatility in the energy market, renewable energy assets have price stability for decades (15 years are current production contracts for example), therefore relying on fossil fuels with price volatility is not a focus for us.

There’s also a geographical diversity to green Hydrogen production – and we’re already looking at projects that will be multi-hundred MW scale throughout the UK, that would allow us to create renewable energy hubs serving the rail, maritime and haulage industries as well as industrial uses.

Building in strategic locations also gives resilience in production. Having diverse resources of renewable supply - like we do with our sites at Whitelee (onshore) and East Anglia (offshore) for example - allows us to put our electrolysers (the machine that produces the hydrogen) where they need to be. This also feeds into energy security – using our own renewable supply means external factors, like the war in Ukraine, won’t impact on our renewable portfolio’s ability to provide clean electricity.

It was a pleasure to give an outline of the work we’re undertaking to the make green hydrogen sector a great opportunity across the country. We’ve already seen this happen with offshore wind in the UK and we know, with the right support, green hydrogen will be another success story. We want to work with the Scottish and UK Governments and take action now to tackle the final gaps in decarbonisation and make our Net Zero ambitions achievable.