Major new regional report says hydrogen can create thousands of jobs and drive sustainable growth

June 9, 2023

Up to 40,000 jobs could be created and a further 60,000 safeguarded across the West of England and South Wales if they embraced the hydrogen revolution, according to a major report unveiled today.

It also suggested that between 16,000 and 21,000 kilo tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved by 2050 by using the zero-emission fuel to decarbonise transport, commerce and power. 

The Bristol and Bath area is already a leading player in research into the use of hydrogen to drive sustainable growth, upskill the workforce and deliver job opportunities.

The latest plan, unveiled at a major net zero conference today staged by the Western Gateway – the pan-regional partnership that stretches from Swindon to Swansea – builds on the area’s reputation as a centre for aviation and advanced aerospace engineering.

As the home to 14 of the 15 world’s largest aerospace manufacturers, the region has the capacity to lead in creating the sustainable air fuel for the future. 

In addition, the Western Gateway Hydrogen Delivery Pathway looks at how the area could become centre for net zero rail innovation, while education and skills providers could retrain up to 108,000 workers and build a pipeline of new skills for the future through the shift to hydrogen.

Hydrogen is made by splitting water through electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen.

The oxygen can be released into the atmosphere with no negative impact while the hydrogen can be used for clean heat and power – making it an ideal fuel to help meet the government’s net zero targets. 

A number of hydrogen-linked research and development projects are already underway in the West of England, including at the £70m Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) building, pictured, on the Bristol and Bath Science Park.

At the same time, aerospace giants Airbus and GKN – both with major plants at Filton – Bristol Port, Bristol Airport and Wales & West Utilities are working together on other transport-linked schemes.

The Western Gateway plan has been drawn up in collaboration with Hydrogen South West, the partnership of leading businesses and innovators aiming to develop the UK’s leading zero-emission hydrogen infrastructure in the region, the South Wales Industrial Cluster and the GW4 Alliance, which brings together the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

The conference brought together politicians from England and Wales with business leaders and academics to discuss how these aims could be achieved through private and public collaboration.

Western Gateway chair Katherine Bennett CBE, pictured, said the area had huge potential to deliver opportunities for the rest of the UK.

“Using our combined strengths and skills, our leaders and businesses are ready to provide huge economic opportunity for both countries finding world-saving solutions for some of the toughest decarbonisation problems as the UK’s ‘green energy powerhouse’,” she added.

“Our Delivery Pathway is just the beginning and I look forward to working across business and the public sector to bring these opportunities to life.”

Also speaking at the conference was Chris Skidmore MP, chair of the UK Net Zero Review.

He said: “The Western Gateway has nationally significant strengths in hydrogen, from the South Wales Industrial Cluster to the hydrogen hub in Swindon, and I’m delighted to support their work to power the UK’s Net Zero economy.”

The conference also included talks by the Welsh minister for climate change Julie James MS and the UK minister for energy efficiency and green finance Lord Callanan, alongside representatives from RWE, EDF, Airbus, Wales and West Utilities, Innovate UK, UK Infrastructure Bank and British Business Bank.

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