A hydrogen-fuelled event has been held as 200 people took the next steps towards a clean energy revolution in the Greater Brighton area.
The event marked the launch of a new group called Hydrogen Sussex to bring together those working on ways to make the clean alternative to fossil fuels much more widely available.
Brighton and Hove Buses, Shoreham Port and engineering firm Ricardo were among those taking part in the online event.
Hydrogen Sussex hopes that, by pooling expertise and lobbying power, it can help the clean fuel to become a mainstream source of energy for ships, aircraft, lorries and buses.
And it said that the switch away from fossil fuels would not only reduce harmful emissions and improve air quality but create jobs, encourage innovation and support inward investment.
Shoreham Port has already set out plans to create a “green hydrogen hub”, working with Brighton firm H2evolution.
They hope to submit a planning application soon and open a 20-megawatt electrolysis plant near the lock gates in about three years’ time.
H2evolution said: “Certified offshore and onshore wind, solar and hydro power will be converted into renewable hydrogen which will be sold to local and regional customers in the transport industry.
“Regional operators will continue to maintain reliable public transport services while transitioning to 100 per cent clean air and achieving significant noise reduction.”
Those at online event were also told that Brighton and Hove Buses and Ricardo are working together on a project to convert existing buses to run on hydrogen fuel cells. Ricardo is investing £2.5million in a hydrogen development and test facility in Shoreham.
The event to launch Hydrogen Sussex drew innovators, researchers, businesses and politicians of all parties, uniting to back the cause.
Former Brighton councillor Maria Caulfield, now the Conservative MP for Lewes, opened the event. She said: “Hydrogen is critical to the green industrial revolution and has potential to make an impact at a local national and global level.
“Given our location close to London and Europe, we are really well placed to be leading on this.
“It will be a challenging task ahead but – as the development of a covid vaccine has shown – with the right purpose and right people we can achieve what some people may think is impossible.”
The next stage for the group will be to support the production of hydrogen locally and promote the development and uptake of hydrogen vehicles.
Hydrogen Sussex grew out of the Greater Brighton Energy Plan which was agreed by the Greater Brighton Economic Board last year.
The board’s members include leading figures from councils, universities, the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (GB Met), the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the likes of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership.
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “I’m delighted to support the launch of Hydrogen Sussex which is key towards the drive for a zero carbon economy and placing Greater Brighton at the forefront of the hydrogen revolution.”
Councillor Mac Cafferty, the Greater Brighton Economic Board’s lead on green growth, said: “Bringing together all the important partners, the new group will support this game-changing technology.
“There’s huge potential to assist our city region’s journey to net zero, drastically improve air quality locally and provide substantial economic benefits to the city region and the wider Sussex region as we recover from the pandemic.”
The Green councillor added: “This is the first step of many to develop our region as a UK leader in this field. There is much to do but this has launched us off the starting block.”
While it can catch fire, experts say that it is a safer fuel today than in the days of the Hindenburg airship disaster.