A new report published by RenewableUK calls for the UK government and devolved administrations to reform planning rules to enable green hydrogen projects to be built swiftly around the country, as they will play a key role in its future energy system.

The government has set a target of installing 10 GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, half of which will be green hydrogen generated by renewables, including wind. To meet this target, the amount of green hydrogen the UK produces would have to be about a hundred times greater than it is now.

Several small-scale green hydrogen plants are already operating in the UK, and a number of larger projects are in planning or have consent to go ahead. But the report, ‘Planning for Onshore Green Hydrogen’, warns that the current planning regime is too slow, complex and difficult to navigate for developers to build projects at the scale and speed which is needed.  It identifies major sticking points and puts forward multiple recommendations to overcome these. The document also offers a go-to guide for developers hoping to navigate the current planning system.

Unlike other renewable technologies, green hydrogen has little access to national planning guidance that is specific to green hydrogen, so local planning authorities and national governments have a very limited framework to provide guidance. Also, it is unclear whether a green hydrogen project built alongside large wind or solar farms to make use of their clean power can be included in the same planning application as an integral part of the site, or whether they need a separate planning application under a separate regime. The report recommends updating guidance to include green hydrogen, taking due account of the target set by government. The report also notes that there is a need to explain to decision makers how this innovative technology works, as it is not yet widely understood and the knowledge gap is hampering progress.  

 The report also states that the Health and Safety Executive and environmental regulators are at present unable to process the pipeline of green hydrogen projects fast enough, as they have insufficient resources to do so. It notes that they too have limited guidance on how to deal with this innovative technology, and that they have no remit to deliver net zero. This could be addressed by ensuring that they have access to adequate funding, as well as updating guidance for the HSE and environmental agencies, including a net zero mandate.  

RenewableUK’s EnergyPulse database shows that 4.2 MW of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity has been installed so far in the UK (15 projects). The pipeline of all green hydrogen electrolyser projects at any stage of development (operational, under construction, approved, in the planning system or at an early stage of development) stands at 1479MW (83 projects). This includes 1410MW (32 projects) in early stage development.