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Scotland urged to drive hydrogen-powered revolution

Prof Ronald MacDonaldA breakthrough in renewables technology could see Scotland develop a new source of energy supply with huge export potential.

Scientists in Australia have found a way to store and export low-cost ammonia, turned into hydrogen, which is becoming a key green energy source.

Ronald MacDonald, pictured, professor of economics at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, is urging Scotland to become an early adopter, saying renewable hydrogen would enable Scotland to become entirely carbon neutral and sell energy to other countries.

Along with reduced energy costs, improved air and water quality, other advantages include the ability for Scotland to be self-sufficient in creating enough low-cost energy to exceed the amount of oil and gas produced from the North Sea. It could lead to Scotland supplying a supergrid in partnership with a consortium of global energy majors.

If hydrogen became central to the national economy then remote, rural and regional areas of Scotland would be able to generate and export electricity and ammonia on a large scale. This would enable the country to significantly increase the manufacture of food products, technology and IT-based services to the scale of global corporate enterprises, and increase its exports of medicine and healthcare services, education and training services.

Professor MacDonald, who is co-founder of the HIAlba-IDEA think tank in the Highlands along with the mathematician, scientist and engineer Dr Donald MacRae, said: “This new technology could be a game changer for the Scottish economy in many ways, not least in moving us to a high productivity, high value economy with all that implies for the provision of well-paid jobs and the provision of public services.

“I believe it is critically important that Scotland becomes a first mover in this new technology and its application so that it can capture the wider knowledge and finance related aspects.”



3 Comments to Scotland urged to drive hydrogen-powered revolution

  1. Just imagine if rather than spend £1bn on 19th century tram solution for Edinburgh, we had invested £200m on this technology for buses etc and sold it around the world. #missedopportunities.

    • I agree, Peter, hydrogen buses are the way to go for public road transport, especially on busy city routes or long distances.

      For certain less frequent, short hop journeys, when the bus has to spend some of its time parked up, because on that route there is not the customer demand for frequent services then electric buses will do fine because they have got time to recharge their batteries.

      The same goes for private transport. Occasional use cars to travel to work, to do the shopping, to take the kids to school, then electric vehicles can serve us well.

      For taxis and people who have to travel a lot in a company car or have to use their own car a lot during the day or driving long distances then hydrogen cars will be the heavy duty solution there too.

      Just beware that what is being proposed in this story may be another tram-like white elephant for Scotland – “ammonia for hydrogen transport”, that Scotland doesn’t need.

      There is no point Scotland investing lots of our money in ammonia because we don’t need it for our use of hydrogen.

      So yes £200 million for hydrogen buses would be wise but that’s not what this story is angling at.

      There is a lot of hype in this story trying to confuse and conflate Scotland’s position as a modest energy exporter mostly to England with the quite different needs of Australia a huge global exporter of energy which has different technical needs for long distance hydrogen transport.

      You just need to be aware that I am the one here who is talking the most sense about Scotland’s economic potential and technology needs as regards renewable energy and hydrogen, not Ronald MacDonald.

  2. Orkney has got its hydrogen economy up and running already – and without using any unnecessary “ammonia” whatsoever at any point, I may add.

    Orkney doesn’t need ammonia to transport or store its renewable energy hydrogen and I sincerely doubt that Scotland will either.

    Hydrogen transports well enough in high pressure tanks, or hydrogen can be piped if necessary. Hydrogen can be stored underground too.

    This reads like someone has gate-crashed Scotland’s renewable energy hydrogen economy party and is trying to flog us ammonia that we really don’t need for that.

    Ammonia is too noxious to use as fuel and that’s why it isn’t used and won’t ever be used directly as a fuel.

    Ammonia has its essential uses and good luck to all those involved in ammonia production and use.

    However for Scotland and the UK’s main renewable energy uses – for electrical power, heat and transport – I don’t think ammonia is required.

    Yes there is an issue of how best to transport hydrogen from Australia or South America to markets in Europe and south Asia.
    Ammonia may be a contender for long distance shipping but there are other many options to consider too. By all means make the case for that but don’t conflate it with Scotland’s energy needs or export requirements.

    Scotland is a small country that will be exporting renewable energy via the grid to England and customers beyond, hopefully tens of gigawatts of power eventually. We may also be exporting some hydrogen too but to get it only as far as our markets in England then we won’t need to convert our hydrogen to ammonia for that short distance.

    The market for energy in Europe is much bigger than Scotland can supply.

    Australia will be a major renewable energy exporter – with solar power that Scots can only dream of, with a land area 100 times greater than Scotland – and Scots, as great friends of Australians, speaking the same language, our joint Commonwealth inheritance, may very likely be offering to be employed with or collaborating with Australia to help them with their export requirements, possibly using ammonia.

    Scotland is not Australia and our needs for our renewable energy exports are not the same as Australia’s.

    My “Scottish Scientist” Renewable Energy Blog
    * Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    * Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme
    * Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power
    * World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?
    * Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power
    * Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020
    * South America – GREAT for Renewable Energy

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