The man in charge of Scotland’s gas distribution network has called for the UK and Scottish government to align their policies and not shut the window on transforming Scotland into the “battery of Europe”.

Mark Wild, the CEO of SGN, has appealed for “both governments to work together” in order for Scotland to become a world leader in clean hydrogen.

The Scottish Government believes that hydrogen could become a £25 billion industry with plans to ship the fuel to Europe to power heavy industry.

But a blueprint to use hydrogen for domestic heating have not been progressed amid concerns over the technology’s viability in place of electrified heat pumps and heat networks.

In October, the National Infrastructure Commission concluded that hydrogen was not suitable for heating homes, insisting that “there is no public policy case for hydrogen to be used to heat individual buildings”.

The Scottish Government’s Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, Patrick Harvie, told The Herald last week that hydrogen “is not expected to play a central role in heating buildings”.

Mr Wild is calling for blending hydrogen into the gas grid to be prioritised – which would blend low-carbon hydrogen and other gases such as natural gas and would use pre-existing infrastructure.

Last year, the UK Government indicated it would support the blending of up to 20% hydrogen into gas distribution networks.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Mr Wild insisted “the drive for net zero is absolutely essential” and called for politicians to “increase the pace to make sure the investment does come here”.

Asked what the Scottish Government needs to do to help scale up the hydrogen economy, Mr Wild said: “I couldn’t name a policy that hasn’t worked.

“I cant think of one thing that I would ask them to do that they haven’t done.

“I think the key is the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster. Some of these levers can only be pulled in Westminster.“

He has called for “better alignment and sycronising” of policy levers between Scotland’s two governments.

He added: “A good example is the blending of hydrogen into our gas grid. It’s pretty much no regrets.

“It decarbonises naturally and would create a market for hydrogen.

“That lever really can only be pulled in Westminster but it would be operationalised in Scotland.”

Mr Wild has stressed that it is essential for heavy industries and other key sectors such as whisky to use hydrogen as an intense heat is needed for manufacturing processes.

He said: “There are 50 distilleries connected to the SGN network in Scotland. Their need for heat is so much that electrification would be very, very difficult.

“Hydrogen will have a role, undoubtedly, in decarbonising heavy industry. Power stations that currently use natural gas could use hydrogen and crucially in Scotland, there’s a big opportunity to be used as geological storage.

“Scotland could become the battery of Europe by using hydrogen.”

He insisted that “hydrogen could also be used in a domestic heat setting”, with SGN undertaking a trial in Fife.

He added: “All we are saying is keep the option open.

“In 2030, 2040, if we didn’t keep the option open, we might very well regret it.”

Mr Wild admitted that using hydrogen for heating homes is still “unproven”, but insisted “we’re making the case”.

He added: “The real gap is in the pace to get the hydrogen economy going – which is why we are so keen to get hydrogen blended into our network.”

Some climate campaigners have raised concerns about the climate credentials of clean hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced using electrolysis powered by renewable electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, but the process currently takes a lot of energy and is costly.

Blue hydrogen can be created by separating natural gas into hydrogen and capturing and storing the carbon, while the controversial grey hydrogen will lead to harmful carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.

Mr Wild said that “it will take blue and green” strains of hydrogen to get the industry going.

He added: “Every serious commentator would say that carbon storage has got to be part of the solution.”

Asked if grey hydrogen could be used initially to scale up the hydrogen industry, Mr Wild said: “I don’t think so.

“I think we should put the foot on the pedal to get to green and blue hydrogen, starting with decarbonisation of heavy industry like Grangemouth. Then we should think about blending straight away.”

Mr Wild added: “We lead the world in hydrogen but the rest of the world is catching up very quickly.

“The inflation reduction act in America and the equivalent in Europe and now really starting to get traction. 

“We need to create the conditions in the UK and Scotland particularly, to bring investment in.”

He pointed to the “90,000 highly-skilled engineers in Scotland are working in the oil and gas industry”.

Mr Wild added: “One of the best migrations for them over 20,30,40 years is to the hydrogen economy. The skills are almost the same.

“I grew up in the north east of England. My dad was a coal miner in the 80s. Now I look back – there’s a very proud industrial heritage, the same as there is here, and there’s nothing left.

“We just simply cannot afford to let that happen to the Scottish industry.

“I think it’s one of the main precursors (for a just transition).

"The hydrogen economy gives you a real leg up."