A cross-industry group of 40-plus businesses have urged Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to bring forward urgent measures to back a UK-wide hydrogen strategy, or risk falling behind other nations in developing a domestic industry around the key energy transition fuel.

In a letter to the Chancellor the group, called Hydrogen Strategy Now, which includes companies such as Orsted, EDF, Equinor, Siemens and Vattenfall, said they were ready to invest some £1.5bn ($1.89bn) into hydrogen projects across the country.

The group argues that developing a clear, strategic plan will unlock significant private funding in hydrogen technologies and manufacturing, driving growth and generating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

“As you look to design a post-Covid-19 recovery, we encourage you to focus on creating high-skilled, green jobs, in sectors that will be critical to the future economy, such as low-carbon energy, transport and heavy industry,” said the letter.

“These measures would be wholly complementary to the government’s levelling-up agenda and long-term decarbonisation goals. For example, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has made it clear that the UK will not meet its net zero emissions targets without significant investment in the hydrogen economy.”

The group pointed that the global hydrogen economy is estimate to be worth $2.5trn by 2050, “Other nations, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada and China have already set ambitious strategies for growing their hydrogen economies.

“Just last week Germany joined this list with their own €9bn hydrogen strategy. The European Commission is also creating an EU hydrogen strategy, which includes plans for multi-billion euro investment in hydrogen projects, and schemes to boost sales of hydrogen electric vehicles.”

The group said it is now clear that hydrogen is going to play an essential role in the world’s future, low-carbon economy, and the increasingly bold steps being taken by other nations underlines the need for the UK to bring forward urgent measures to establish a hydrogen strategy and unlock investment and innovation.

“We should not risk falling behind other nations in developing our hydrogen industry,” warned the letter.

Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, vice-chair of the influential CCC, said: “The UK missed the boat on wind technology and missed the boat on batteries. We can’t afford to miss the boat on hydrogen.

“I strongly agree that the UK urgently needs a hydrogen strategy, as there are too many small, piecemeal funds and projects. We need some serious private and public funding, and a coordinated effort between government and industry, to kick-start and grow a green-job-creating hydrogen economy across the country.”

The 40-plus strong group, which combined employs around 100,000 people and has a value of £100bn in the UK, has asked for a meeting with Sunak and his officials to discuss opportunities that exist in the UK-wide hydrogen economy.