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Hydrogen bus for Aberdeen after PM’s green deal

Hydrogen bus destined for Scotland (pic: Wrightbus)

Britain’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus will be unveiled in Aberdeen on Wednesday, 24 hours after Boris Johnson promised a green revolution in transport and energy transmission.

The UK’s first hydrogen production and bus refuelling station was opened in Aberdeen in 2015, as part of a £19million green transport demonstration project.

The Aberdeen City Council-led project tested the economic and environmental benefits of hydrogen transport technologies and aims to drive the development of hydrogen technologies.

Jo Bamford, who acquired Northern Ireland company Wrightbus last year, will be in the city to announce progress on a £7.5m deal for 15 buses to be operated by First Aberdeen.

Mr Bamford, heir to the JCB business, has plans to bring hydrogen-powered buses to other parts of the UK. He has asked the UK government for £500 million to support his plans to build 3,000 hydrogen buses by 2024.

He also wants to tap the Scottish government’s recently-announced fund to develop hydrogen technology in the north east.

Under the ‘bonnet’: the hydrogen cells

On Monday he was in Birmingham to announce an order of 20 of its world-first zero-emission double-decker hydrogen buses.

The Aberdeen unveiling follows the Prime Minister ‘s promise of a package of green energy policies to help the UK meet its ambitious climate targets — including hydrogen fuel, carbon capture and storage, more wind farms and bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol cars.

To help the country “build back greener,” the PM announced that every UK home will be powered by electricity from offshore windfarms by 2030 and pledged £160m to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines in places like Teesside and Humber, Scotland and Wales.

The plan drew criticism from opposition MPs for lacking detail. The SNP said there was no pledge on reversing the restrictions on onshore wind farm development. Ed Miliband, Labour’s spokesman on business and energy, said Mr Johnson rarely delivered on his rhetoric. “The funding announced today spread over ten years is a drop in the ocean, and pales in comparison to the investment by France and Germany in green jobs,” he said.

Trade union Unite Scotland criticised the Prime Minister’s pledge to commit 60% of the turbines to be manufactured in the UK as ‘rehashed rhetoric’.

The union pointed out that BiFab in Fife had not secured any work from Perth-based energy company SSE for the Seagreen project with all of the platforms for its 114 turbines to be manufactured in China and the United Arab Emirates.

This follows the minimal work awarded to BiFib by EDF through the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm project, which will consist of 54 turbines.

Unite has also repeatedly stated that the Macrihanish based Wind Turbine company CS Wind has been sitting idle since November 2019. The yard is the only UK facility manufacturing onshore and offshore wind towers.

Pat Rafferty

Pat Rafferty: ‘hollow words’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty, said: “The UK Government has repeatedly failed to act on recommendations for years and belatedly adopting this target only serves to highlight their years of inaction and abandonment of the domestic supply chain.

“The onshore and offshore wind sector in Scotland is on life support. We have the BiFab yards and CS Wind in Campbeltown sitting idle.

“The Prime Minister’s pledge is hollow words for these communities. SSE is awarding work everywhere but Scotland. EDF awarding scraps from the table. CS Wind’s Korean owners have mothballed its factory.

“Talk is cheap. We need action and we need that right now. We urgently need the Contracts for Difference Scheme totally reformed to legally ensure that domestic based firms are guaranteed work from the billions of pounds being poured into the on and offshore wind sector.

“The reality is that the people of Fife, Lewis and Argyll and Bute haven’t seen a penny of it.”

A more welcoming response to Mr Johnson’s strategy came from Kevin Brundish, CEO at British battery cell company AMTE Power which makes batteries in Thurso.

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“We welcome this news, which will not only be valuable to offset emissions in carbon-intensive manufacturing industries, but for achieving the nation’s wider climate change objectives and supporting the global green agenda,” he said.

However, he also urged Mr Johnson to commit to an action plan.

“A green recovery depends on the realisation of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which outlines its ambitions on battery technologies and on-shore battery supply chains,” he said.

“To sustain the wider renewable energy industries, the Government must prioritise the creation of an onshore, full-cycle, supply chain for the scalable production of high quality lithium ion cells, in support of firms like AMTE Power.

“This will help bring to market the country’s outstanding talent and capabilities for developing innovative cell technology and allow the UK to become more competitive in the global arena.”

An energy white paper, which could come as early as this month, is expected to give investors more clarity over the government’s plans to increase low-carbon electricity generation, making up for the phase-out of coal-fired power stations. 

Professor Karen Turner, director of the Centre for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyde said investment in ports and related infrastructure should be welcomed.

“The focus on building up UK supply chain capacity is a crucial one.

“We hope this funding will be targeted in ways that effectively enable necessary increases in the capacity and competitiveness of UK supply chains.”



3 Comments to Hydrogen bus for Aberdeen after PM’s green deal

  1. “Britain’s first hydrogen bus”

    Aberdeen has had a fleet of hydrogen vehicles for years now, including buses, bin lorrys, cars and vans

  2. I don’t understand the statement that the first hydrogen bus has just been released. Aberdeen has been using hydrogen buses for a few years now.

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