The devolved Scottish government has unveiled a £115m-plus ($155m) draft action plan to reach its ambitions of building 5GW of green and blue hydrogen capacity by 2030 and 25GW by 2045, and producing and exporting the lowest-cost clean H2 in Europe.

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The 50-page plan sets out 37 “key actions” that Holyrood will implement over the next five years, with the most significant being £100m of funding from the government’s Emerging Energy Technologies Fund to support “hydrogen pathfinder projects”.

While it does not clearly define what such “pathfinder projects” might be, it states that the funding programme will focus on regional renewable hydrogen hubs, green H2 production and innovation.

“We wish to see renewable hydrogen projects coming forward for potential support from the £100m hydrogen funding programme,” the document states.

The action plan also declares that Scotland will “support the establishment of low-carbon [ie, blue] hydrogen production at scale in the 2020s, linked to carbon capture and storage” — but only for projects with carbon capture rates of 90-95%.

Confusingly, £15m from a separate funding pot, the Energy Transition Fund, will be invested in a hydrogen hub in the Scottish oil capital of Aberdeen, which the document described as “a broad programme of work to develop a comprehensive investment in infrastructure for the production of and use of renewable hydrogen, its distribution, storage, and refuelling across the region to support the growth of broader transport fleets and the deployment of new applications”.

One of the key goals in the plan — which will not be finalised until after a public consultation that runs until 19 January 2022 — is to “address current barriers to the uptake of hydrogen including high production costs”.

A tenth of the £100m fund will therefore go towards a Scottish Hydrogen Innovation Fund, which aims to “drive advancements in hydrogen technology to improve the cost-competitiveness of renewable hydrogen”.

The Scottish government will also work to “ensure the regulatory, planning and consenting framework for renewable energy and hydrogen developments supports the scale-up of hydrogen production at pace”.

Elsewhere, the report talks about: driving down the cost of hydrogen-powered vehicles; a pilot H2 train service in 2023-24 in Scotland’s far northeast; looking into the use of H2 for heating, including “exploring opportunities” for up to 20% hydrogen blending in the gas network; supporting a hydrogen transportation and distribution infrastructure; producing H2 demand forecasts; building hydrogen export capabilities; investing in skills training; exploring the use of hydrogen for energy storage; and building a local supply chain “with a clear line of sight to opportunities by creating a visible pipeline of projects”.

Many of the other key actions are fairly vague, such as supporting industry, strengthening international relationships, and working closely with the UK government.

The Holyrood government, run by the independence-seeking Scottish National Party, is keen for Scotland to be seen as a distinct entity from the rest of the UK — a nation that can stand on its own two feet without interference from Westminster, powered by a thriving clean energy sector.

“Scotland is well placed in terms of proximity and infrastructure connectivity to key locations in Northern Europe that are unlikely to be able to produce enough renewable hydrogen to meet their own decarbonisation requirements and currently developing import strategies,” said Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport.

“Scotland has the potential to produce significant quantities of renewable hydrogen from our offshore and onshore wind resources and our potential wave and tidal power which is vastly greater than our indigenous demand. We also have the potential to produce low-carbon [ie, blue] hydrogen at a large industrial scale.”

He adds that Scottish business “are well positioned to help support the emerging hydrogen economy”.

“Established sectors such as oil and gas, subsea, maritime, onshore and offshore renewables, chemicals and petrochemicals and aerospace contain a wealth of skills and capacity, and hydrogen represents an attractive diversification opportunity for those sectors as the nation continues its energy transition.”

The action plan received immediate support from local industry group Scottish Renewables.

“We are delighted to see the strong emphasis on the export potential of hydrogen, and that a strong hydrogen sector in Scotland could support up to 300,000 jobs across all skill levels by 2045,” said senior policy manager Helen Melone. “It is also encouraging to see that the £100m funding announced is targeted at renewable hydrogen projects.

“Scotland is in a unique position as it has an abundance of renewable onshore and offshore wind resource that can be harnessed to produce green hydrogen and supply both Scotland and the rest of the UK.”