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Weekly update

29 April 2021

In our weekly update we aim to summarise the work of the Committee over the last week.

Last week (the week commencing 5 July 2021)

Last week, we met on Wednesday 7 July to hold a further session as part of our inquiry into the role of hydrogen in achieving Net Zero. We explored approaches to hydrogen in Japan and Germany, as well as metering, regulation and the work of Ofgem.

We covered a range of issues in our session, including:

  • Professor Hirose said that whilst Japan was putting a lot of emphasis on hydrogen it was widely recognised that “a portfolio strategy is necessary for Japan” with hydrogen and electricity developed in parallel. He recommended that the UK use its abundant offshore wind to develop green hydrogen—“you have a huge potential of the wind power already, you should use that most and hydrogen will enhance its use”. He also said how whilst efficiency was an important part to designing well for the future, economics was more important, and the “portfolio of the future is not just deciding one technology”.
  • Professor Kikkawa said that “Hydrogen technology is the most important key technology to achieve a carbon-neutral Japan” and reducing the cost of green hydrogen “is an essential point to make hydrogen economic”, but “hydrogen alone cannot realise a carbon-neutral economy”. He highlighted that Japan was leading on fuel cell technology, with more patents than any other country, and the UK should consider its use of this technology for long-distance road transport. He said how Japan as an island nation with few of its own resources was focusing on importing hydrogen and the technology to carrying shipment. A weak point of the Japanese hydrogen strategy was that hydrogen infrastructure (such as piping) was not as well developed in Japan as in Europe or USA.
  • Eric Heymann indicated that whilst the hydrogen strategy of Germany was prominent, hydrogen would remain a small part of the overall energy transition. Because of the high near-term costs of developing the hydrogen market and production capacity, “for at least the next ten years, the absolute contribution will be limited”. Eric Heymann was also critical of the use of job creation as an informative metric, because producing the same amount of energy with a much higher number of jobs was “not a good sign for productivity”.
  • Franz Lehner recommended that decisive policy could motivate the development of hydrogen market. He said that “there will always be a need for a molecule-based energy carrier in the same way as we use fossil fuels today” in the economy. He predicted that “the hydrogen industry 50 years from now will probably be at the same scale as the oil and gas industry today”. Mr Lehner recognised that “the next few years are really decisive” to develop hydrogen production and use to get to Net Zero in 2050. He recommended “a market-based approach” where the UK should “tackle the regulatory environment to set a stimulus for change”. He also said that there would not be a need for a Government mandate to limit the use of hydrogen in certain sectors because the market would do that itself.
  • Dr Hanton suggested that it was “quite pressing that we start to answer the metrology issues around meters”, to prevent metering issues from being “the weak link in the chain” in the UK’s use of hydrogen in the domestic grid. Whilst metering was a necessary component of the use and storage of hydrogen, he said that “metering is something that is quite often overlooked or taken for granted”. Dr Hanton said that “there has been a lot of innovation work already undertaken” which has “quite rightly” focused on the “safety aspects”, and “at the moment very little though has been given to metering”.
  • Dr Dennett-Thorpe said that “there needs to be a policy framework and Government are the lead on domestic metering” and that Ofgem “work within that framework”. On being questioned about the role of Ofgem in addressing the challenges in domestic metering, Dr Dennett-Thorpe said that Ofgem believe it is “enabling the necessary research and development to take place to enable that question to be answered”.

You can also catch up on the session in full by reading the transcript or by re-watching the session on parliamentlive.tv.

If you’re interested in evidence from particular witnesses, click below to go to the start of their evidence: 

Commenting after our session, our Chair, Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP, said:

“Collaboration and learning are central to scientific progress. It is hugely valuable, in our journey to Net Zero, to learn from other countries and their experiences. I thank our international witnesses for their openness.

“We also heard last week about the possibility that unanswered questions about whether current meters can be used for hydrogen could act as a barrier to our deployment of hydrogen in domestic heating. This important issue should not be overlooked and more urgency is required to answer this question.”

Our Chair also questioned the Prime Minister on Wednesday 7 July at the Liaison Committee on travel to amber list countries and the Government’s plans, and lessons the Prime Minister had learned from the Government’s response to the pandemic. You can also catch up on this session in full by reading the transcript or by re-watching the session on parliamentlive.tv.

On Thursday 8 July our Chair attended the Public Accounts Committee for its session on Test and Trace and questioned key officials on the effectiveness of the Test and Trace system, contact tracing and the effectiveness of the system. You can also catch up on this session in full by reading the transcript or by re-watching the session on parliamentlive.tv.

Committee member, Aaron Bell, took part in a session of the Committee on COP26, hosted by the Treasury Select Committee, on Monday 5 July. Aaron asked questions about the costs of Net Zero. You can also catch up on this session in full by reading the transcript or by re-watching the session on parliamentlive.tv.

Published written evidence and correspondence

Last week we agreed to publish:

S&T in the media

Our Chair represented the Committee at the Liaison Committee last week, where, as reported by The Telegraph and Politics Home, he asked the Prime Minister questions relating to the upcoming easing of covid-19 restrictions, and lessons learned from the Government’s handling of the pandemic. In another hearing last week, with the Public Accounts Committee, the Chair’s line of questioning regarding the justification for funding NHS Test and Trace was covered in the Evening Standard.

Next steps

This week we will not be meeting in public. We will be holding our next and final session as part of our inquiry into the role of hydrogen in achieving Net Zero on Wednesday 21 July. We will release further information on this session later this week.

Further Information

https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/135/science-and-technology-committee-commons

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Committee Membership

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/membership/  

Specific Committee information: scitechcom@parliament.uk / 020 7219 2793