Urban Futures Salford Manchester. Research in the City

Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership

Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership

Greater Manchester is increasingly trying to respond to a reliance on fossil fuels in the organization of economic and everyday life in the city region. In particular, decision-makers are focused on reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that follow from this. These challenges are not unique to Greater Manchester and face decision-makers in other cities, national governments and international bodies.

Greater Manchester has a CO2 emissions reduction target of 48 per cent by 2020 and a developed Energy Plan. It is within the context of contributing to this that the Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership (GMHP) was set up in 2012, and launched in March 2013, by Manchester Metropolitan University and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

There has long been interest in the potential of hydrogen energy but over the last decade and more the promise of hydrogen as a fuel for transport, heat and electricity generation has captured the imagination of policymakers and politicians internationally, nationally and at the level of the city.

Hydrogen is used as a source for the fuel cell that creates a reaction and generates electricity. Hydrogen can be produced from both fossil fuels and via renewable sources, so whether the hydrogen is produced by fossil fuels or carbon free sources is key.

The GMHP aims to build networks of local authorities, businesses, universities and the energy sector as part of a ‘Local Interaction Platform for Hydrogen Action’. It also aspires to develop and implement a Greater Manchester Hydrogen Action Plan including hydrogen fuel cell demonstrations. Underpinning the GMHP is a desire to accelerate the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Greater Manchester and also to open up opportunities for hydrogen and fuel cell research for universities in the area.

One can see a number of issues that inform the purpose of the GMHP, from carbon reduction to research opportunities and commercialization. There are also ambitions to reduce dependence on the electricity grid through the demonstration and use of stationary fuel cells in a number of settings.

Furthermore, it is hoped that fuel cells in vehicles rather than through the use of conventionally fuelled internal combustion engines can be used as part of a carbon reduction approach in transport. The GMHP also recognizes the need for public engagement and education in relation to this given not only safety concerns and perceptions but also given a relatively poor understanding of these technologies.

The GMHP provides a context for members to try and develop and attract new hydrogen projects, demonstrations and funding in the city region. Its ambitions stretch beyond this to include building networks with industry, connections with other cities and regions with hydrogen partnerships, as well as providing advice on EU and UK government policy.

These can be seen as functions which promote hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology within Greater Manchester and beyond. The GMHP is also the structure through which hydrogen energy and the interests coalescing around it in Greater Manchester are connected to the Greater Manchester Energy Plan. 

One example of early attempts in the Partnership’s life at doing this can be seen in researchers at MMU working with the organisation responsible for waste disposal in Greater Manchester, Viridor Liang. Through a pilot project the plan is to assess the potential of waste gas in powering fuel cells that generate a clean source of energy.


An Alternative?

The use of hydrogen and fuel cell technology as fuel and power sources are not new. A fascination with hydrogen and fuel cell technology can be traced back, for example, to Jules Verne in the 1870s, to the Hindenberg disaster in the 1930s and the US space programme in the 1960s.

What is new is how the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technology is being seen and justified to be able to respond to the challenges posed by greenhouse gas emissions, security of energy supply, an ageing electricity grid and the development of the green economy.

What is also new is the attempt to create an organizational context, through the GMHP, for hydrogen energy and fuel cells in Greater Manchester. The alliance for the GMHP is between MMU, GMCA and the Greater Manchester Energy Group but is also intended to build capacity in this area.

In many respects – its organization as a networking platform, promotion of fuel cell demonstrations, its public education aspirations, its aims of contributing to carbon dioxide emissions reductions – the GMHP mirrors the London Hydrogen Partnership which was established in London by mayor Ken Livingstone more than a decade earlier.

There have, over the years, been many similar cycles of hope for hydrogen and fuel cells which have not resulted in mass use of the technologies. It is likely that hydrogen and fuel cells will provide some contribution to an overall energy mix that includes other renewable and more conventional sources. It is the scale of that contribution that remains a key issue.


Update - July 2014

The Department for Energy & Climate Change is interested in working with industry and academia to establish an industry-led green standard for the production of hydrogen that can be used as a basis for UK policy development.

The following organisations have been invited to participate in an expert working group:

National Grid
University of South Wales
Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association
Manchester Metropolitan University
Air Products
University of Nottingham
ITM Power
AFC Energy
Scotia Gas Networks
Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association

Representation will also be provided from other relevant Government departments, such as OLEV. Amer Gaffar, representing MMU and the Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership (Greater Manchester region), will be working towards implementing UK policy for production of green hydrogen.



http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2013/march/greater-- manchester-hydrogen-partnership-launched

This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

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