Hydrogen Hypothesis: Edinburgh running on H2!

Luke Watkins is in the final year of his PhD in the School of Chemical Engineering & Advanced Materials at Newcastle University. He was funded by NIReS to attend the 2013 Hypothesis Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Conference in Edinburgh in July 2013. In this final instalment of four posts, Luke discusses the potential for hydrogen as a bridge between renewable energy and sustainable transport and concludes with his reflections of the conference experience.

“There are exciting developments happening in Scotland too. Hydrogen is being used as marine fuel for ferries on the west coast of Scotland. Fergus Ewing, Member of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, and Glaswegian, was delighted to enlighten us about a recent study, ‘Delivering the Ambition: employment in renewable energy in Scotland’ [1] which reported there are now over 11’000 jobs in renewable energy in Scotland. That’s more than the whisky industry! Some of these jobs are being allocated towards the previously highlighted woes of Edinburgh’s transport network. Utilising hydrogen as the bridge between renewable energy and sustainable transport, Edinburgh will deploy Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses and demonstrate a range of uses for renewably-generated hydrogen. Fergus Ewing stated in his keynote speech that:

“It could be a catalyst for the further development of the hydrogen and fuel sector in Scotland”

Edinburgh is a city that is welcoming renewable energy, and so the conference feels appropriately placed. Collaboration between companies to deploy a fleet of buses will …

“…help raise awareness among the public of the technology and its benefits”

One of my mates recently asked what my PhD was in, then admitted to me “I’ve only ever heard hydrogen energy in the context of b*mbs…?” It is clear that a great way to promote a hydrogen economy is to improve the public awareness, and what better way than to incorporate hydrogen into our everyday lives. Hypothesis could only help in spreading the benefits of hydrogen to people and I felt privileged to have been asked to be chair of a session, where I also delivered a talk summarising my PhD research. It was refreshing to be in discussions with others after my talk, some of which continued well into the evening.


Who’s to say that a ‘Hydrogen Economy’ is even feasible? It’s anybody’s guess which assorted options will eventually rise to the top. However I do feel that the ownership of renewable energy should belong to local people. Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council said at Hypothesis that Scotland already has a target of 500 MW delivered by communities by 2020. This can only be achieved if hydrogen is present in every day scenarios (workplace, transport etc) to make the public aware, and assured that it is safe!

Hypothesis was an ideal way for me to experience the hydrogen community I finally felt part of. For the first time I realised I could apply for work out of my PhD specialty. My good friend Captain Hindsight tells me that I should have attended a similar conference at the start of my PhD.


  • Get involved
  • Flash your university logo about
  • Position yourself near free liquid refreshment distribution


While only securing my funds for the Hypothesis Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Conference a week before the event, a variety of people I’d never met before had done a top end job at sorting me out and arranging me to attend my first conference. So a massive thanks to Elizabeth Johnson and the rest of the Pure Energy Centre® crew for allowing me to arrange my talk and attendance so late, and also for Jennifer Hazelton and NIReS for their invaluable support.

1.  Scottish Renewables. Delivering the Ambition: employment in renewable energy in Scotland.   [cited March 2012]

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