Mike Lockett is the Uniper UK Country Chairman & Chief Commercial Officer Power. This is a sponsored post by Uniper.

Last June – which seems like a lifetime ago – the UK became the first major country to legislate for a net-zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We’ve all been through a huge amount since then, as Covid-19 upended our personal and working lives and now looks like it will be something we’ll have to deal with for a good while yet.

However, while so much government time and attention naturally turns to the pandemic, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of the 2050 target and act quickly to bring about the changes that will not only make net-zero a reality, but underpin a sustainable economic recovery and countless new jobs.

Now is the time to accelerate a UK-wide strategy for hydrogen, the only fuel that can decarbonise heavy industry, transport, heating and power – which are all still dependent on carbon emitting fuels. Both green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources, and more conventional hydrogen-production methods with carbon capture and storage technologies are needed at scale.

Once produced, clean hydrogen can also be refined into renewable liquid fuels – such as synthetic diesel and aircraft fuel – providing a clean energy source for vehicles and whole industries that currently rely on carbon intensive fuels.

But to realise hydrogen’s potential – and the UK’s capacity to be a leader in the fuels of the future – we need to develop an enabling framework that will provide incentives and support for companies competing at a global level.

The government’s new Hydrogen Advisory Council, which is partnering with industry to enable supply of low carbon hydrogen at scale is a welcome first step. It’s vital that this council’s outcomes inform a national hydrogen strategy that commits the government to invest in hydrogen infrastructure and skills development, as well as enabling collaboration between businesses, academia, the public sector and other institutions – accelerating development and deployment of net zero technologies and creating green jobs.

This strategy should be built around four enablers:

  • Applying a mindset of innovation to projects that are developing clean energy solutions, viewing decarbonisation as a cross-sector endeavour.
  • Building partnerships – such as the multi-party hydrogen projects springing up in industrial areas of the UK including the Humber and the north-west – that bring cross-sector groups together and accelerate adoption
  • Investing in the skills that create a workforce capable of delivering the green economic recovery, through tailored apprenticeships, world-class degrees and ongoing training programmes
  • Crafting the policy that will harness the UK’s skill base, industrial heritage and ability to innovate to find the long-term solutions to achieving net-zero. Policy can supercharge the growth of a UK hydrogen economy by incentivising businesses to develop and expand the hydrogen infrastructure, as well as providing the framework for hydrogen’s use in industry and transport. This aligns with the government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure projects and hi-tech jobs in the UK’s regions and industrial heartlands.

So much promising and important work is already going on, but the power of a government strategy to galvanise a movement to drive real change cannot be underestimated. This isn’t just about hitting that 2050 target. The quicker we can decarbonize UK companies in heavy industry, aviation and shipping, the more competitive they’ll be on the global stage.

With the questions of Covid-19 and Brexit on the UK’s horizon, the announcement of a national hydrogen strategy can provide certainty and direction, as well as setting us on a path towards a net-zero future and creating new, highly skilled green jobs. This is hydrogen’s moment, and we need the vision and framework that will allow it to fulfil its potential.