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Thames Estuary is ready to play its part in COP26 net zero targets

11th November 2021

This month has seen the UK host COP26, bringing together nations and leaders to agree coordinated action on global climate change and keep the world on track towards a common goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Clean energy has been central to discussions at COP26, with the role of hydrogen at the front and centre of many debates. This renewed spotlight on hydrogen comes the week after the Thames Estuary Growth Board launched its Hydrogen Route Map, a significant step forward in the delivery of hydrogen as a sustainable energy source.

An investor-ready plan for contributing to the UK’s hydrogen economy

Integral to the Government’s hydrogen strategy, the Hydrogen Route Map will help provide clean energy that will be critical to ensuring the UK hits net zero targets, reducing carbon emissions by up to 5.9 million tons annually and solidifying our place as world leaders in green technology. It will also support 9,000 jobs and deliver £3.8bn GVA to the UK economy by 2035.

The Hydrogen Route Map identifies where demand, supply, distribution and storage opportunities exist; outlines requirements of the investment market and pinpoints investment clusters; establishes a broad set of relationships with key stakeholders; and highlights the competitive advantage of locating a hydrogen ecosystem in the Thames Estuary.

Across the Thames Estuary region, developments in hydrogen will unlock substantial benefits for people and local economies, attracting more than £2.2billion of investment, and supporting levelling up through job creation. The transition away from fossil fuels will help address issues of poor air quality and improve health and wellbeing.

Thanks to its natural and economic geography and position as a strategic investment partner, the Thames Estuary has the capability to power the Government’s ambitions of becoming a global player in hydrogen energy.

Kate Willard OBE, Estuary Envoy and Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board, said: “The Thames Estuary can play a major role in the Government’s ambitions for achieving net zero and we stand ready to work alongside Government to play our part in its delivery. We work tirelessly to identify and catalyse new opportunities to create the cleanest and greenest river-side region anywhere on the planet.

“We are proud and excited to launch The Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map. Over the past six months, we have looked across the Estuary to understand the needs and opportunities and articulate the scope for a hydrogen ecosystem which is compelling and capable of attracting multi-billion-pound investment. A hydrogen ecosystem in the Estuary will have far-reaching, positive implications not only for the region, but for the UK as a whole.”

Delivering good, green growth across the Estuary

The Thames Estuary Growth Board launched its ‘Green Blue’ workplan in July 2021, which sets out our objective of delivering the world’s greenest, most productive Estuary and maps out the framework used to measure success. Net Zero is central to the workplan, including catalysing a hydrogen ecosystem as laid out in the Route Map as well as exploring how the River Thames can be better used for freight.

Greener transport and logistics

One of key sectoral opportunities for hydrogen is greener transport and logistics, which is why we appointed WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering professional services consultancies, as our light freight partner. Moving freight off London roads will ease congestion and air pollution, whilst also supporting regeneration and boosting economic growth. WSP will lead a study into making better use of river freight: the outcome of this research will be ready in the next few months and the results will be shared with government and industry to realise the potential for river freight.

Huge green benefits of the Thames Freeport

The Thames Freeport, which is now operational and proving attractive to businesses, will play a key role in greener transport and logistics in the region. The Thames Estuary Growth Board supported the freeport bid, and we were clear with partners that the freeport needed to show how negative environmental impact would be minimised and recognise the opportunity to develop innovative approaches, as well as stating how the natural environment would be protected and enhanced.

With an expected high volume of river and land traffic and businesses, the Thames Freeport is a natural location for a hydrogen ‘cluster’ for supply, demand and development of clean energy, as detailed in the Hydrogen Route Map. In addition, investment in clean energy generation, including hydrogen fuel production and storage, as well as plans for Ford to trial new and green technology initiatives at its Dagenham site will pave the way for cleaner air and greener spaces for the residents of the Thames Estuary, contributing to net zero.

Championing greener approaches to major projects

As part of the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s ongoing commitment to championing net zero and sustainable growth, we work with closely with industry. We look at major projects planned across the Thames Estuary region and work with our partners to make them even better for local people, businesses and the environment. We are working with partners to maximise the benefits of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, and supporting local green growth ambitions through our work with Homes England to enable the local delivery of economic growth and new homes that prioritise place-making with infrastructure and connectivity to support them.

Celebrating good, green Estuary businesses

We also launched the Estuary Visionaries scheme in October 2020. The Visionaries scheme shines a light on sustainable, innovative businesses in the region which live the ‘good, green growth’ ethos. The Thames Estuary Growth Board is looking for more businesses like these to become Estuary Visionaries, to share ideas, inspire learning, future-proof our environment and stand as an example to the rest of the UK of how to deliver stronger, greener growth.

Read more about The Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map.

Find out more about our Estuary Estuary Visionaries scheme and how to apply .

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