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White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

●     455,076 jobs could be created in construction and property sectors across Great Britain

●     Cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders calls for £100bn in Spending Review along with 5 point Resilient Recovery Declaration

●     Calls for Government-led plan to retrofit homes and become world leader in low emissions vehicles

●     Net Zero Development Bank would increase private investment in zero carbon economy


New research published by UK100, a group of mayors and local government leaders today shows that a “retrofit army” of nearly half a million builders, electricians, plumbers will be needed to meet the Government’s objective of becoming Net Zero by 2050.

The figures are being published as a cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across England have submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to unlock £100bn as part of the Spending Review, which closes today (24 September). The finance should be predominantly met from the private sector with the Treasury pump-priming £5bn via a Net Zero Development Bank.[1]

In total 455,076 jobs could be created or in demand in the construction and property sectors[2]. The construction industry has been one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, with 90% of construction businesses having applied for the furlough scheme, second only to the hospitality sector[3]. In total, over 3 million jobs are expected to be in demand or created as part of a shift to a green economy across a range of sectors.

Essex is the area with the highest number of potential new construction and property jobs – with a total of 12,841 roles likely to be created or in demand. Outside London (64,551 jobs) and the South East (67,467 jobs) the areas with the greatest number of new jobs are the North West (50,380), the East of England (48,427) and Scotland (42,978).


Analysis conducted by UK100 and Siemens, shows that a £5bn investment by the Government could unlock £100bn of private sector investment toward meeting the Net Zero goals by 2050. It includes £40bn for ‘retrofit’ such as energy saving and efficiency in homes and businesses; £10bn for renewables such as solar, wind and biomass; £30bn for low carbon heating such as district heating networks; £10bn for smart energy systems; and £10bn for low emissions transport such as electric and hydrogen vehicles.[4]

The UK Green Building Council has estimated that to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050, we will need to improve almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes, meaning we need to retrofit more than 1.8 homes every minute between now and 2050.[5]

The new ‘retrofit army’ would be supported to go green with incentives to switch from diesel and petrol white vans to electric vehicles[6], as well as seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. There would also be support to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.

Although the UK100 jobs data is not time specific, a recent report by the New Economics Foundation which interviewed industry experts found that “a period of three to four years was thought to be required to train up the supply chain to full capacity.”[7] Homes are a major source of climate change: accounting for 15% of emissions in the UK in 2018, primarily from natural gas use for heating and cooking[8].


The joint declaration by the 24 mayors and council leaders says: “The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy…Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.”[9]

The declaration includes a five point Resilient Recovery Declaration which is being submitted to the Chancellor’s Spending Review:

  1. a long-term government-led plan to retrofit homes across the country, which are some of the leakiest in Europe;
  2. a new duty for Ofgem to support the delivery of Net Zero as part of a renewable, locally planned electricity grid;
  3. creating a Net Zero Development Bank to increase private investment in renewable technologies;
  4. a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK; and ensure UK is world leader in developing low emissions vehicles
  5. new powers for mayors and local authorities to deliver Net Zero.


A number of new jobs are expected to be created in the construction and property sectors as part of the shift to a green economy. Many of these are outlined in a framework of technical standards for retrofit, known as PAS 2035/2030:2019. These include[10]:

●     Retrofit surveyors and advisers. Surveyors and advisers would provide advice to homeowners on how best to reduce energy waste from their houses, on the financial benefits of a variety of retrofit measures and support available.

●     Retrofit builders and insulation specialists. Builders and labourers will need additional skills and experience of constructing energy efficient homes, as well as installing the latest insulation in existing homes to reduce energy leakage and meet the highest EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings.

●     Retrofit heating specialists. Specialist technicians, who may have worked as gas boiler engineers could install technologies such as ground or air source heat pumps which can convert renewable-sourced electricity into heating and hot water, or biomass boilers which can burn waste timber with low emissions.

●     Retrofit roofers, carpenters and electricians. A range of specialist roles will be envisaged in the retrofit industry covering the design and installation of technologies including solar thermal systems; home battery storage and thermally efficient facades, which create an airtight and insulated shell around an existing property.

●     Retrofit co-ordinators. The Retrofit Co-ordinator has a key role in ensuring that effective standards are maintained such as the Trustmark accreditation[11] and is involved in all work stages to help reduce risks.


Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Task Force, said: “With the furlough scheme coming to an end, this country now faces both a climate and a jobs emergency—with both requiring urgent action.

“By investing in nearly half a million skilled and secure jobs as part of the Spending Review, the Chancellor could lay the foundation for a resilient and sustainable recovery across the country and ensure that we have the workforce we need to actually build back better and greener. Local authorities are ready to play our part in helping the country meet its legal Net Zero obligations. We will continue to lead the way, in partnership with businesses and the Government.”

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “From Essex to Edinburgh, the move to a greener economy will create thousands of new jobs. By unlocking private sector investment through a Net Zero Development Bank, we can reduce the taxpayer burden and ensure the money is spent prudently by disciplined allocators of capital.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “I have been clear that a strong economic recovery and a green recovery are not mutually exclusive but one and the same. With green investments in jobs, skills, technology and infrastructure, we can create millions of new jobs, boost the economy, tackle inequality and unleash sustainable growth at the same time as tackling the climate emergency. I encourage the Government to do more to invest in green jobs and skills, and to help us power a recovery that leads London towards becoming a zero-carbon city.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “There is no hiding from the climate emergency we are facing as a country, and we must do everything we can to tackle this and reach our carbon emission goals. A key part of this will be a green and inclusive recovery from the Coronavirus crisis – one that delivers high quality, well paid jobs in high-tech new green energy sectors. Tackling climate change and providing people good jobs of the future go hand in hand. The UK100 Resilient Recovery Declaration sets out some critical priorities for cutting emissions and securing those vitally important green jobs for the future. That’s why we’re proud to sign-up to this declaration.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We need a new economic model to drive recovery that is based on fairness and building back better. This research shows there is an opportunity to generate thousands of new jobs in a green economy by putting local communities in the driving seat. By working in partnership with businesses and leaders across the country, the Government can unlock sustainable growth.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Front loading green infrastructure spend will give cities and regions the certainty and stability we need to plan for our recovery. It will enable us to line up the local labour and supply chains, supporting inclusive economic growth, as well as delivering on our climate and ecological goals.”

Councillor Sarah Bunting, Belfast City Council’s UK100 Taskforce representative said: “Covid-19 has led to an acceleration of our action to transition to a zero-emissions economy within a generation. It has focused minds, and led to more partnership working across the city to drive jobs-led growth. However, investment from government is needed to ensure projects at scale are brought forward quickly, either through retrofitting of local housing or stimulus for low-emissions transport. Like many cities, Belfast needs to make a step change towards decarbonisation in this decade. This is a profound challenge but offers substantial opportunities for our local economy.”

Cllr Joshua Schumann, Chairman of Environment and Sustainability committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Covid-19 has brought challenges to many local government responsibilities and activities – protecting and supporting our communities has had to be our primary concern. In addition to the challenges there have also been opportunities that have been identified in how we can recover from the impacts of the pandemic and how the environment could have lasting benefits from new ways of working.

“Cambridgeshire is delighted to be part of the UK100 resilient recovery taskforce and pleased to add its name to the declaration. Green investment will be an essential part of economic recovery and creating a workforce that can deliver that, with the necessary skills and training, is one example of how we will facilitate it.”



Members of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Taskforce

  • Leeds (Chair) – Cllr Judith Blake, Leader
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Cllr Dine Romero, Leader
  • Belfast – Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience, Belfast City Council
  • Birmingham – Cllr Ian Ward, Leader
  • Bristol – Marvin Rees, Mayor
  • Cambridge – Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader
  • Cambridgeshire – Cllr Steve Count, Leader
  • Camden – Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader
  • Cardiff – Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader
  • Cornwall – Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member – Climate Change and Neighbourhoods
  • Leicester – Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor
  • Liverpool City Region – Steve Rotherham, Mayor
  • London – Sadiq Khan, Mayor
  • Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham, Mayor
  • Manchester City – Sir Richard Leese, Leader
  • Newcastle – Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader
  • North of the Tyne – Jamie Driscoll, Mayor
  • Nottingham – Cllr Sally Longford, Deputy Leader
  • Oxford – Cllr Susan Brown, Leader
  • Sheffield – Cllr Julie Dore, Leader
  • Sheffield City Region – Dan Jarvis MBE, Mayor
  • Southampton – Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader
  • West Midlands Combined Authority – Andy Street, Mayor
  • West of England Combined Authority – Tim Bowles, Mayor


  • Professor Andy Gouldson, University of Leeds – Adviser to the Taskforce
  • Polly Billington, Director, UK100 – Taskforce Secretariat



23rd September 2020

The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy. Such an approach will enable us to reskill our workforce, enable job creation, create cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, and restore the nature upon which we all rely.

As elected leaders of our communities, we are playing an essential role in tackling the current Covid-19 crisis, and we are fulfilling our role in building a resilient recovery from it. Our knowledge and understanding of our communities means that we are well placed to design and deliver solutions that improve health, prosperity and the environment. Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.

Together, we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government if action is taken forward across government to:

●     Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together appropriate UK government financing for the transition to Net Zero. The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with Local Energy Hubs and support local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.

●   Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning. The Core mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators should be expanded to include supporting the delivery of Net Zero emissions, and we support the regulation of future investment in Distribution Network Operators so that a greater role can be given to regional and sub-national plans and ambition.

●   Ensure that the nation’s homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be Net Zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest. The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9bn public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks to crowd in further private investment to meet this goal.

●   Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing zero emission vehicles including buses and freight. This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. Further support should be provided to citizens and businesses to switch from polluting vehicles to greener ones while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.

●   Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local Net Zero carbon delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.

Full data is available at: (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available)


The calculations draw on the paper ‘Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening’ on workforce composition’ by Alex Bowena, Karlygash Kuralbayevab, Eileen L. Tipoec, in Energy Economics, April 2018. The paper finds x% of jobs in different US sectors have ‘green skills’ and y% require significant changes due to ‘greening’. The calculations assume these proportions apply, sector by sector, in the UK. We apply these proportions to existing jobs using the BRES survey.

Further details: See Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020.

About UK100

UK100 is a network of highly ambitious local government leaders, who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by 2050. This is not just good for the planet but for the people and communities they serve, be they in villages, towns or cities. Local leaders are working together to create flourishing communities, seizing the opportunities of technology to create jobs and establishing a nationwide project of renewal, focussed on local needs and ambitions.

UK100 is the only network for UK local authorities, urban, suburban and rural, focused on climate and clean energy policy. We connect local leaders to each other, to business and to UK government, enabling them to showcase their achievements, learn from each other and speak collectively to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

We work closely with elected representatives, policy experts and grassroots campaigners to make the clean energy transition a reality. This involves developing solutions to challenges faced by each and all of our local leaders, whatever their geography, history or makeup, so as to influence UK government and building public support for clean energy solutions.

[1] See Editors Notes and p21 of £5bn investment for £100bn return: This is based on the typical development cost range of 10-15% of overall capital costs for large scale district heating projects down to 2-5% for more straightforward energy efficiency projects.

[2] England, Wales and Scotland figures. Detailed figures available here: (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available). Data derived from Bowen, A., Kuralbayeva, K. and Tipoe, E.L., 2018. Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening on workforce composition. Energy Economics, 72, pp.263-275. Also see Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020


[4] See Editors Notes and p21 of




[7] See p16

[8] See p12


[9] Full text of declaration in Editors Notes

[10] The roles outlined are derived from UK100 research and the 5 roles outlined in PAS 2035/2030:2019


For further information please contact:

+44 7830 195812
Putting the rural voice into climate action

Putting the rural voice into climate action

David Cope, UK100’s Countryside Climate Network Coordinator, spoke at the Rural Service Network’s annual conference Revitalising Rural on Thursday. In this adaption of David’s talk, he spells out why we need to include the rural voice in climate action and highlights some informative examples of councils engaging residents. 

UK100 is the only network for local authority leaders with a focus on net zero. But until recently, our network was predominantly urban. We recognised that we needed to be more inclusive, to support rural authorities that had distinctive challenges and opportunities around climate action, and to ensure that the rural voice was incorporated into our national advocacy campaigns.

That was why we created the Countryside Climate Network. We currently have 23 members from across England, together covering over 40% of the country and making up 20% of UK100’s membership. 

So far, more than 280 local authorities have declared climate emergencies. The ones that are generally finding it easier to act are those that have more devolved power or funding. But others, including many counties, unitarities and districts, are also acting positively. 

This second group is able to do so because they have the political will, public support and determination. We think that building consent and support among local residents is crucial for the success of climate action – it is a key aspect of building the power to act.

Climate concern is high

National polling tells us that concern about climate change is high. Before the pandemic, YouGov polling showed us that a quarter of the public felt that the environment was one of the most important topics facing the country – behind Brexit and health – with 74% concerned about climate change.

The pandemic hasn’t changed this. YouGov reported in July that ‘COVID-19 has not kicked environmental issues into the long grass’, with a quarter of Brits still viewing the environment as one of the most important issues facing the UK.

In spite of these general statements, it is evident that this doesn’t make the implementation of climate friendly policies smooth or simple. The introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods and pop up cycle lanes as a policy response to the need for travel adaptations to Covid-19 have demonstrated that even with a groundswell of enthusiasm for action, this doesn’t mean that everyone has provided their consent and support.

And even though the UK government is changing its position on support for onshore windfarms, there is still nervousness about whether communities will support their development locally.

That’s why we advocate for a high degree of engagement between local politicians and a broad cross-section of the residents and businesses in their areas. Last month we held a webinar on ‘mini publics’ – citizen assemblies and citizen juries – to discuss the pros and cons about their use in building consent and support in local communities around climate action. 

On 10 September, Climate Assembly UK – more than 100 ordinary people representing the diversity of the British public, commissioned by the UK Parliament – presented its report. The Assembly members supported the swift implementation of a variety of policies that the BBC referred to as ‘radical’, including banning gas boilers, frequent flier taxes, swift transition to electric vehicles and reductions in meat and dairy in diets.

But vitally, Assembly members also identified that the policy changes could only happen if there was better education for all on climate action. They highlighted that fairness needed to be an underpinning principle of the transition, and individuals and local areas needed to have freedom of choice. 

To me this highlights that the public are potentially very ready for radical changes, as long as they are part of those changes and they are not imposed on them. The importance of local choice and local solutions stood out for me too. 

The importance of engaging residents in action

Local authorities are well versed in engaging their residents in decision-making. As ambitions around climate action increase, it is ever-more important to involve residents in a discussion about what is acceptable and desirable to them. Here are a few examples from members of our Countryside Climate Network.

In Herne Bay, on the Kent coast, part of Canterbury City Council, planning permission has recently been given for the UK’s first green hydrogen plant. Powered by electricity generated by an offshore windfarm, this plant will produce hydrogen for use by buses, initially in London, but once production increases and new bus fleets are fitted out, it will be used by hydrogen-powered buses in Canterbury too. 

Some local residents had objected to the development on safety grounds – hydrogen being potentially explosive. The Councillor for the ward, Dan Watkins, one of our Countryside Climate Network members, had many conversations with local residents to discuss safety concerns, explain the risk profile and the project’s benefits. This type of engagement is crucial in achieving climate action.

In Cornwall, another one of our members, they recognise that some climate actions could be detrimental to some residents. So they have committed to ensuring no Cornish resident is worse off as a result of climate action. They developed a decision-making ‘wheel’ that balances environmental ambitions with social needs. 

With use of this framework, they have decided to not install fossil fuel heating in any new council-developed housing, have invested in a bike and walking network of trails to link together housing and economic growth areas, and are using central government funding to reduce bus fares across Cornwall. 

And in Cambridgeshire, the county council is working on a project that will replace oil fired central heating with ground and air sourced heating in the entire village of Swaffham Prior. The scheme is being offered to the village, but whether or not residents buy into it is up to them. The project was inspired from community members and this local ownership has been instrumental in building the support for adoption. 

Upcoming research to better understand local views on climate action

For all these reasons, we are about to commission some research into the views of rural residents on specific climate actions – including around transport, heating, energy generation and land management to name a few. This research will dig into what it is about these specific actions that make them easy to commit to, or contentious.

By understanding these issues better, we will be better able to explore ways to engage a broad section of rural society. This will allow local politicians to frame discussions about specific climate actions, equipping them to build consent and support locally. Ultimately, by building this consent and support, their power to act will grow. 

David Cope, Countryside Climate Network Coordinator

If you’d like to join UK100’s Countryside Climate Network, please do get in touch with Coordinator David Cope.

A ‘One Nation’ approach to climate action

A ‘One Nation’ approach to climate action

Cllr Steve Count, Chairman of UK100’s Countryside Climate Network, responds to the One Nation Building Back Greener paper

As leader of Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC), and Chairman of UK100’s Countryside Climate Network, I welcome the ‘Building Back Greener’ policy recommendations published recently by One Nation Conservatives. Delivering net zero is a perfect example of a One Nation approach – it will benefit everyone today and in future generations. The recommendations their report included will address the challenge of delivering net zero carbon emissions through incentivising better low carbon choices and planning for nature-based solutions to capture and store carbon emissions.

My Council, similar to others, is signed up to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. We are working with businesses and our communities to deliver change. However, there is a delivery gap. For example, nationally we need to retrofit approximately one million homes a year for the next 30 years to take them off oil and gas for heating and hot water. But how can anyone believe that this can be achieved when other statistics highlight that only 172,000 new homes were built last year – do we have enough construction workers with the right skills to make change happen at this scale?

This low carbon construction skills and supply chain gap needs filling quickly, to address the need to scale up delivery of home retrofits. Additionally, and importantly, homeowners need to be incentivised to shift from oil and gas heating. In Cambridgeshire we are working with a rural community of 300 homes to move them off oil-fired central heating. However, there are currently few economic reasons why those householders should want to change to low carbon heating systems. Jerome Mayhew MP suggests a carbon tax will shift behaviour, drive demand from householders and encourage better environmental choice. I think it’s worth exploring whether a carbon tax could replace the VAT system over a period of time to achieve both behavioural change and keep costs neutral for the public.

Putting a value on carbon is important, whether real or just nominal. An initial nominal valuation will help improve environmental decision making within Cambridgeshire County Council. I am encouraging our business cases to include two prices – one which includes the costs of carbon emissions and one without. The test will be to review decisions to see if this results in us making better decisions towards achieving our ambition of net zero carbon emissions.

During 2019, researchers from Cambridge University quantified Cambridgeshire’s carbon footprint. Emission from homes, businesses, transport, waste, agriculture and land use change totalled 6.1 million tonnes CO2e in 2017, with a further 5.1 million tonnes CO2e estimated for agricultural peatland. As part of the research analysis, measures to deliver net zero carbon by 2050 were identified. Apart from all homes and buildings needing to be retrofitted with low carbon heat solutions, such as air source heat pumps, it was identified that a network of 3,500 EV chargers would be required, in addition to substantial increases to walking and cycling. A massive effort, but even this would not deliver zero carbon emissions. To reach net zero, carbon capture and storage will be required to remove the remaining 0.6 million tonnes CO2e every year for Cambridgeshire alone. For this reason, I welcome our South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne’s views on the publication of a Greenhouse Gas Removal Strategy that includes carbon capture and storage, tree planting and soil improvement.

The Countryside Climate Network (CCN100), comprises 23 rural authorities covering over 40% of land across England. Planting trees is something that local areas can plan and deliver with financial support (accepting some areas are more limited as to how and where trees can be planted). For example, CCC owns the largest county farms estate in England and works closely with its tenant farmers. I actively encourage our tenants to consider tree planting, use ploughing and other techniques to minimise emissions whilst also increasing soil quality and food productivity.

Initiatives for sharing best practice and nature-based solutions are also encouraged. Through our work with university researchers, I know there is an urgent need for a UK soil strategy – peatland emission calculations in Cambridgeshire are based on data that is over 40 years old and urgently need updating. This will allow us to plan how our peatland asset can be better utilised with regards to airborne carbon. Building investor confidence in nature-based solutions to carbon capture and storage must be supported as one of the overall solutions. I will be seeking environmental land management schemes, as set out in the Agriculture Bill, to invest in nature-based solutions to deliver results and proof of concept along with other local authorities in the CCN100.

The CCN100 is looking to work closely with government to support the UK to prepare as the host for the UN Climate Change conference, COP26, next year. This is our opportunity to showcase to the world progress and leadership.

If the key recommendations coming from the One Nation publication are taken up by the Government, my Council will be at the front of the queue to demonstrate how local climate action will make significant contributions to achieving our national net zero goal.

Cllr Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and Chairman of UK100’s Countryside Climate Network.

If you’d like to join UK100’s Countryside Climate Network, please do get in touch with Coordinator David Cope.

Local leadership: exploring decisions on hydrogen, by Hywel Lloyd

Local leadership: exploring decisions on hydrogen, by Hywel Lloyd

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future.  Like all futures it hasn’t quite arrived; yet it’s clearly an opportunity. 

A number of countries across the globe have set out, or are setting out plans and strategies to invest in Hydrogen for their economic recovery, for example Germany and Japan.  In the UK while the Energy White Paper and associated strategy for low carbon heat have yet to emerge, a variety of agencies and organisations are energy planning, looking to plot a positive energy future for their places, and communities.

As part of the work of UK100 we have a presence in some of the processes of the regulator Ofgem, and are working at representing UK100’s collective interest with organisations such as National Grid, for example in their Hydrogen Gas Market Plan (GMaP) program of work.

Given many localities are looking to understand their hydrogen options, here’s our latest take on the wider sense of what’s the future for hydrogen – and what that might mean for a local leader.

The first thing to say is that hydrogen is not a silver bullet, yet it’s certainly one of the things that will insure we can fuel our future energy needs.  The advantages of hydrogen include its multiple uses, for domestic and industry heat, powering vehicles, electricity production and long term energy storage. 

While it will be easier to maximise those benefits if we can reduce our demand through greater productivity and efficiency in our use of energy, we set energy efficiency to one side for now as it is in the domain of hydrogen supply where it gets more interesting for places and communities.

Many can see a potential opportunity in hydrogen, which could even give a first mover advantage to a community or location, helping secure some of the early economic benefits of the hydrogen economy.

So a first reference point would be to appreciate the basic technologies for the two main methods of production:

  • Reformation (SMR), a chemical process that uses a natural gas and steam reaction to create ‘blue’ hydrogen and other by-products.  Importantly one of those by-products is carbon dioxide so this approach really does need something like carbon capture and storage to make it an opportunity in the future, most likely to work where there is a ready opportunity for carbon capture

So that would suggest near the gas fields of the North Sea or other locations where there are geological stores for carbon dioxide, such as salt caverns.  This geographical constraint could affect as much as half the country.

  • Alternatively we have the process of electrolysis.  Electricity breaks down water to produce hydrogen and oxygen (so no GHG emissions), electrolysers effectively just need water and electricity.  With 100% renewable electricity, that would produce renewable, or ‘green’ hydrogen.

Some see ‘green’ hydrogen as the nirvana of the future of heat. We should note the caveats that hydrogen doesn’t have as much calorific value as the natural gas currently used for cooking and heating, and some of the engineering in those devices would need to be changed. Domestic appliances can take up to 20% hydrogen fuel blend, so anything above that would need them to be replaced with appliances ready for hydrogen.

Clearly electrolysis has far fewer constraints on deployment compared to SMR, so the question there then becomes much more about the value of the hydrogen, or the availability of renewable electricity.

The balance of costs of these two elements of the process are a key question on where best to put your electrolysis, which in turn suggest a key criteria will be what do you need the hydrogen for?  

And it is probably true to say it is easier and cheaper to transport renewable electricity than it is to transport hydrogen.  Clearly hydrogen can be a part of the gas mix for the heating of homes and cooking by way of the gas grid; it can equally be used to support transport and power hydrogen fuel cells which some propose as a good solution for HGVs.  This could be site specific or via the gas grid; thirdly you could use it to create electricity (which might sound odd because we may have used electricity to create it yet we can taking surplus renewables at one point, storing their energy value in hydrogen and then releasing it as electricity when there is a greater demand for electricity).

So, where does that leave a local leader?

For some you will already have made or been engaged in a hydrogen opportunity, particularly where your place has the geology to support a SMR/ CCUS type approach, and ideally with central government support given the capital costs and innovative nature of some elements of the approach.

For most of the rest of us the question is more nuanced – do we lead, what’s our opportunity, or should we let the energy system do its thing and concentrate on a different opportunity?

For electrolysis hydrogen, potential options include connection to renewable generation to ‘use-up’ surplus electricity, for example adjacent to a wind farm, or connected to solar on a capped land-fill site; that hydrogen could then be fuel for a bin or bus fleet, it could be injected to the local gas grid; it could be stored for later use when ‘additional’ electricity is needed.  Other examples include using hydrogen fuel cells in buildings to reduce emissions (in place of a boiler) or as part of a local micro energy network at an end of the pipe location.  Other opportunities are being created daily.

As with many ‘new’ opportunities for a local authority it is key that the political and senior leadership is clear about the purpose behind the opportunity.  Clarity of purpose helps everyone involved make better decisions, knowing what is, and equally what is not, important.  For hydrogen that purpose could be climate led, helping reduce emissions and improving air quality; it could be about local jobs and businesses, helping manage local energy prices, costs of transition or create new businesses; equally it could be part of an approach to bring new revenues directly to the authority.

While any one of these is fine, the political purpose is different; and the necessary deployment of political capital will also differ.  Without political capital hydrogen isn’t really a priority, because budgets, staffing, resourcing and other decisions (e.g. planning) won’t all be deployed to help secure pro-hydrogen outcomes – and those tools along with local goodwill, business engagement and the like are all going to be required at this early stage of hydrogen deployment, because hydrogen is not yet the lowest cost energy option.   

In perhaps 10 years time much of the landscape will be different, hydrogen will be in some people’s gas supply; tens if not hundreds of hydrogen refuelling stations will be scattered across the country; surplus renewable electricity will be making hydrogen in a variety of locations.  If hydrogen isn’t a priority for you and your area it will arrive eventually.  


We will be working with a range of stakeholders to progressively flush out opportunities by location so do drop us a line if you are interested in hydrogen for your place. 


Hywel Lloyd, UK100 Board Member,