Floating wind and green hydrogen - fostering future Scottish-French research and development collaboration: report

This report sets out the findings of a study undertaken for the Scottish Government which aimed to review the opportunities for Scottish and French organisations to work together to deliver collaborative innovation in floating wind and hydrogen.

Policy and innovation frameworks: Scotland

Policy context

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 first established a statutory duty for the Scottish Government to pursue greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, aiming for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 against a 1990 baseline [12]. This Act was amended by the Scottish Parliament in 2019 to reflect advice provided by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, which recommended that the Scottish Government facilitate a full reduction to ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 [13]. The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 [14] passed into law as a result, making provision for steeper targets, and for the frameworks required to implement plans for more rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.

In this context, the Scottish energy system has been closely scrutinised. The Scottish Government has prioritised developing frameworks to support development in the key sustainable energy technologies which can play a role in facilitating transition in Scotland. Indeed, the Scottish Government has recently published policy statements outlining the future positions envisaged for offshore wind and hydrogen in the Scottish energy system [1, 3]. These policy statements also provide an overview of current support schemes, and others under development, to fund innovation activity and to develop supply chain capacity in these sectors. Both statements also highlight measures intended to ensure that economic development and employment opportunities associated with the deployment of these technologies in Scotland is felt locally in Scotland. This aspect is key to delivering the Scottish Government’s ‘green recovery’ and ‘just transition’ ambitions, in relation to retaining skills and experience developed in the oil and gas industry in Scotland, and in using economic recovery levers resulting from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to mobilise investment to deliver these projects sooner than might otherwise have been foreseen. The Scottish Government will further publish a Hydrogen Action Plan later in 2021, which will elaborate on the policy mechanisms intended to deliver upon the ambitions outlined in the Policy Statement [3].

In the context of this work, it is also worth highlighting that both policy statements recognise an opportunity for international collaboration that is inherent to further development in these sectors in Scotland, particularly in sharing lessons learned in preliminary deployment projects in Scotland. In its ‘Offshore Wind Policy Statement’ specifically, the Scottish Government acknowledges the 'huge economic opportunity' associated with deploying floating wind systems in Scottish waters, in no small part due to the depth of the waters around Scotland noted above. The statement also recognises the added value that oil and gas knowledge and expertise in Scotland can contribute to making projects further and further out to sea more technically feasible [1]. Noting that hydrogen is less well developed as an energy system technology or solution, the Scottish Government’s ‘Hydrogen Policy Statement’ commits the government to deliver £100 million of funding in 2021-2025 for the development of the Scottish hydrogen economy. The statement also highlights the important role for research, development and demonstration activity to reduce perceived risk for future hydrogen projects, and to drive private sector investment to deliver these solutions at scale. Significantly for this work, the statement notes the importance of (international) collaborative innovation activity and commits the Scottish Government to working with other parties to pursue the development of an international ‘shared hydrogen economy’. It is worth highlighting a recent research study undertaken for the Scottish Government analysing Franco-Scottish research collaborations. Through engaging with stakeholders actively involved in cross-border collaborative research in the two countries, this study found that uncertainties regarding the future innovation funding regime following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union had negatively impacted upon the ease of working together, at least in the context of academic research. This study highlighted the relief researchers felt at the UK’s continued participation in the Horizon Europe programme [15], for which the work programme is likely to include opportunities for joint working on floating wind and hydrogen.

The UK government, and in particular the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), are also working to deliver against a 2050 target for the reduction of UK-wide greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’. A number of policy areas and legislative powers of relevance to the development of floating wind and hydrogen technologies in Scotland are reserved to the UK Government, and specifically to BEIS. BEIS brought forward the UK offshore wind Sector Deal in 2019, committing alongside the industry to invest to deliver offshore wind as a key component of the UK energy system. The Sector Deal includes specific reference to the importance of innovation in delivering future, low-cost offshore wind technologies and systems, especially in applications such as floating wind [16]. BEIS has committed to a target for 1 GW of installed floating wind capacity in UK waters by 2030. BEIS is also developing UK strategy for the deployment of hydrogen as a key vector towards delivering ‘net zero’. The UK hydrogen strategy is due to be published in 2021 and is expected to articulate the UK’s vision for delivering a future hydrogen economy, likely to include significant investment in research, development and demonstration activities. Importantly, this document will also include details on future market structures and revenue supports to develop hydrogen production capacity at scale. Energy market structure is also an area of policy reserved to the UK Government, so these developments will be of great importance to future hydrogen projects in Scotland. A particular priority for BEIS has been the decarbonisation of industrial sectors, and the potential role for hydrogen produced from (floating) wind to facilitate transition in these sectors. Innovation programmes intended to develop these future technologies and systems are described in the following section.

In addition to the Scottish and UK Governments, a range of public sector bodies and development organisations are playing important roles in facilitating development in these technology areas in Scotland. Some of these are summarised here.

  • The Scottish economic development agencies Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise and Scottish Development International all play vital roles in bringing stakeholders together and promoting developments within their areas of focus. Scottish Enterprise recently commissioned Xodus Group to carry out an opportunity assessment which looked at opportunities in, and supply chain readiness for, linking up the Scottish wind and hydrogen sectors [17]. Meanwhile, the DeepWind Cluster, organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, brings together the largest grouping of offshore wind supply chain organisations in the UK. The DeepWind Cluster has specific floating wind and Power-to-X subgroups, looking to facilitate collaborations to deliver innovation activity in these areas [18].
  • Academic networks have also been very active in driving forward innovation activity in these sectors and in contributing thought leadership to influence the roadmaps developing for the deployment of both floating wind and hydrogen technologies in Scotland. 2020 saw the notable formation of the Hydrogen Accelerator at the University of St Andrews funded by Transport Scotland. The Accelerator will support policy makers and innovators in Scotland to implement hydrogen technologies and support economic growth in these sectors [19]. The Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde co-host centres of research excellence in marine energies, including the Industrial Centre for Doctoral Training for Offshore Renewable Energy and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind and Marine Energy. Both institutes have explored several relevant topics to developing floating wind and hydrogen systems, and their integration together.
  • In addition, partnerships between public and private sector organisations have also delivered development in the deployment of both floating wind and hydrogen systems in Scotland. This has been particularly well demonstrated in Aberdeen, where collaboration between Aberdeen City Council and various private sector partners has developed a thriving hydrogen ecosystem building upon demonstration deployments of hydrogen fuel cell buses, supported by the Scottish Government, the UK Government and European innovation programmes [20]. A further public-private partnership in Dundee has seen the development of the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc in a joint venture between Michelin, Scottish Enterprise and Dundee City Council. The Parc will host research, development and manufacturing facilities for organisations developing emerging sustainable technologies, including hydrogen systems and fuel cells [21]. Perhaps the best example on the floating wind side would be the Floating Offshore Wind Joint Industry Programme (FLW JIP), managed by the Carbon Trust, which has leveraged Scottish Government investment to bring private sector developers together to collaborate on and address technical challenges [22]. Trade associations including RenewableUK, Scottish Renewables and the Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association assist in bringing together disparate industry groups and representing them in public spheres.

These disparate stakeholder groups have come together to deliver a wide range of innovation activity within the floating wind and hydrogen sectors, and at the interface between the two. The following section characterises the innovation context for those activities.

Innovation landscape

As noted, a wide range of organisations across public and private sectors have come together to facilitate the current developments in Scotland in deploying floating wind and hydrogen systems. These collaborative activities have often occurred within the bounds of funding programmes specifically designed to encourage such activities, whether organised at Scottish, UK or European levels. A non-exhaustive overview of relevant programmes in these sectors is summarised below (Table 1).

Table 1. A summary of innovation programmes in the floating wind and hydrogen sectors accessed by Scotland-based stakeholders.
Funder Name Timeframe Funds Description
European Commission Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) 2004-2020 ~€2bn A European public-private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration activities in fuel cells and hydrogen.
European Commission Clean Hydrogen for Europe Partnership 2021-2027 TBC Successor public-private partnership to the FCH JU, with a focus on delivering hydrogen innovation to contribute to the European energy transition.
BEIS Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply Competition 2018-2024 £33m Innovation competition intended to accelerate the development of low carbon bulk hydrogen supply solutions in the UK.
Carbon Trust (Scottish Government) Floating Wind Joint Industry Programme 2016-future £9.5m A collaborative research and development initiative aiming to investigate challenges and opportunities for large-scale commercial floating wind farms.
Scottish Government Energy Transition Fund 2020-2025 £62m Support for businesses in the oil, gas and energy sectors in Scotland, to facilitate development projects aimed at diversification.
Scottish Government Emerging Energy Technologies Fund 2021-2026 £180m Investment across carbon capture and storage, negative emissions technologies, and hydrogen production, with £100m of funding specifically allocated for hydrogen projects
Scottish Government (with support from the European Regional Development Fund) Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme 2015-2021 ~£60m so far Provides financial and practical support to infrastructure development projects intended to support the realisation of Scotland’s energy transition.
BEIS Net Zero Hydrogen Fund 2021-future £240m Funds to be developed through the UK hydrogen strategy, expected to co-fund low carbon hydrogen deployment projects.
BEIS Floating Offshore Wind Demonstration Programme 2021-future £17.5m Programme of activities aimed at developing components and systems for future floating wind technologies.
Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence 2020-future TBC Development of a centre of excellence to support the cost reduction of floating offshore wind.
Offshore Wind Industry Council Offshore Wind Growth Parternship 2020-2030 TBC Long-term business transformation programme established as part of the UK Offshore Wind Sector Deal. Promotes closer collaboration across the supply chain.

Drawing from project examples across these programmes, a few seminal projects have been identified which have influenced the wider sectors. The role for collaborative European innovation projects in pushing activity in the hydrogen sector forward cannot easily be overstated. In Scotland, projects in Aberdeen and Orkney in particular have benefitted from European investment and from cross-border collaboration with European partners.

  • The Aberdeen ‘Hydrogen Hub’ programme has emerged to build upon prior successes through, for example, the European Commission-funded Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) HighVLOCity, HyTransit and JIVE projects, which have invested in hydrogen fuel cell public transport vehicles and infrastructure in cities across Europe, especially in Aberdeen. These activities have inspired subsequent projects funded by others, including the European Interreg programmes which promote collaboration across national borders within European regions, as well as the Scottish and UK governments [20].
  • In Orkney, flagship hydrogen projects like the Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in Isolated Territories (BIG HIT) project, also funded by the FCH JU and involving partners from Spain, Denmark, Italy and Malta, have further developed capacities for hydrogen production, handling and use in the Orkney Islands [23]. In both areas, these initial projects have seeded subsequent activities and raised ambitions for the next phase and scale of hydrogen system deployments.
  • The Floating Wind Joint Industry Programme (FLW JIP) has leveraged Scottish Government support to facilitate collaborative innovation activity between a wide range of international offshore wind developers. Key findings from FLW JIP projects have demonstrated the feasibility of fitting state of the art wind turbines on floating platforms, while also proposing new solutions for the offshore vessel operations which will be required to install and maintain future wind farms.

Projects currently in development under the programme are tackling a wide range of issues including the development of future mooring systems for challenging environments, as well as assessing the technical and logistical feasibility of towing floating turbines back to ports for maintenance [26]. These research projects have all been undertaken in collaborative activities between a range of private sector actors, perhaps demonstrating what can be achieved when organisations are brought together to build towards a shared goal.

  • Early innovation activities are underway seeking to demonstrate how floating wind and hydrogen systems might best be integrated. TechnipFMC, a developer headquartered in London but with a presence in Scotland, have been developing designs for an integrated offshore wind-offshore hydrogen production system during their Deep PurpleTM project. Offshore hydrogen production and storage systems will be deployed alongside a fixed offshore wind farm off the coast of Norway, where hydrogen will be produced at times of low demand for power [27].
  • In addition, through funding allocated by BEIS in the Hydrogen Supply Competition noted in Table 1, Aberdeen-based ERM have been investigating the development of integrated floating wind and hydrogen production systems through their Dolphyn project. To date the project consortium has completed a feasibility study and they are currently undertaking front-end engineering design activities towards the deployment of a 10 MW system. The pilot installation is expected to be deployed off the coast of Aberdeen by 2024 [28].
  • More recent projects have emerged with a focus on researching and demonstrating the role for hydrogen in decarbonising other sectors such as heating, and in industrial processes. These projects are expected to play a key role in developing demand-side case studies and thus de-risking future off-take for hydrogen supply in Scotland. Key emerging sectors include:
    • In domestic heating, the SGN H100 Fife project will deliver a 100% hydrogen gas network which will bring locally produced, zero-emission hydrogen gas into around 3,000 homes in a world-first pilot demonstration [24].
    • In industrial applications, a number of projects have emerged which have focused on evaluating the technical feasibility of deploying hydrogen systems in the distilling sector [25].


Email: Alice.candy@gov.scot

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