In this second blog in our two-part special reporting on our insights from the All-Energy Conference in Glasgow, we consider some of the technologies projected to play a role in the race to net zero and the policy developments intended to further the UK's ambition of being a leader in green energy. For a general oversight on the sectoral trends discussed at the conference, see our first blog here.

1. Hydrogen: the promising new frontier

Hydrogen was everywhere at this year's event. It was the subject of over 30 dedicated sessions and cropped up in countless more, while the show floor was full of brands exhibiting their contributions to the burgeoning sector.

All eyes were on the UK Government's ambition of 10GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2030. It was argued in the "Hydrogen Transition: Next" session that the industry must promote five actions or it would miss this:

 - Broaden value by involving affected communities into projects earlier and more closely
 - Enable the development of all options in the hydrogen rainbow
 - Standardise processes and parts where possible
 - Create lasting partnerships
 - Embrace digital accelerants such as AI for verification and certification processes 

A strong sense prevailed that collaboration and strategic planning is essential to offset some of the uncertainty inevitable in this nascent, developing market, including surrounding the best uses for hydrogen, whether curtailed energy should be directed to hydrogen production or elsewhere, and how to alleviate offtaker reticence. There were also calls on the UK Government to allow applicants to the Hydrogen Allocation Round 2 to sell to brokers and on engineers to innovate hydrogen sensors to measure leakage of hydrogen. 

2. Global offshore wind leadership ambition

Rising to the challenge of meeting the UK Government's offshore wind target of 50GW by 2030 was the focus of the offshore wind sessions. Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho reminded the audience in the opening plenary that the UK currently operates the five biggest offshore windfarms in the world. Reference was also made to Sumitomo Electric's new £350m subsea transmission cable factory and the £100m Scottish and UK government-backed loan supporting the construction of new offshore wind facilities at Ardersier Port.

Despite this, panellists and presenters echoed ongoing calls for more regulatory and investment certainty. A clear demand was sent out for further government investment to tackle the inflationary pressures stemming from geopolitical issues, while data, community benefit funding, and local engagement were proposed as solutions to the conundrum of shifting negative public perception of the grid infrastructure on which offshore wind relies. Grid connection reform was again highlighted as a crucial vector for delivering on offshore ambition, discussed further below.

3. Innovation is rampant in energy storage

The House of Lords recently published an unequivocal report on battery and long-duration energy storage titled 'get on with it' and the conference responded to this admonition by diving into themes such as technological innovation, materials, and consenting.

Products such as Caldera's industrial heat cell, which comprises recycled aluminium and volcanic rock and stores excess renewable energy as heat, and StorTera's single flow battery SLIQ, which refreshes the circulation fluid annually and is claimed to maintain over 90% efficiency for up to 20 years, are viable and exciting storage options. They also go some way to dealing with the stigma surrounding the flammability of Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIB) by avoiding combustion and using non-flammable liquids.

Having more renewables in the energy mix will increase the importance of energy storage and in turn the mining of precious metals and other materials. The conference covered the growing effort to manufacture recyclable materials that last longer than the current range of around 10 years, and storage solutions that avoid environmentally damaging mining.

However, many are exploring the possibility of co-locating battery storage with their generation projects to store excess energy generation, a development which looks set to be boosted by a reformed Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.

4. Heat boosted by new legislation

A key requirement for colder countries like Scotland to make the transition to net zero is heat storage, and heat networks were discussed as the most effective solution.

In a session titled "boldly going where no one has gone before", panellists discussed a range of measures to deliver a heat network vision for Scotland. Sarah-Jane McArthur, Partner at Brodies, provided the legal perspective and assessed whether we have the right policy and legal framework to deliver our heat network targets. The new authorisation regime for heat networks under the Energy Act 2023 aims to provide consumer protection, but time is required to shift public attitudes and increase consumer confidence. The panel debate also highlighted the importance of zoning and compulsory connections for successful heat network deployment as seen in Denmark.

Heat network technology and solutions are rapidly developing and include extracting and storing geothermal heat from abandoned mine shafts in tunnels below cities for use during colder months.

The conference set out a people and skills-centric vision for future heat networks that encompassed collaboration and digitalisation as well as government and local authority support.

5. The need to upskill workforces for the green transition

A key challenge for the energy transition is the need for more talent to be trained and retrained in the energy sector to enable the UK to be at the forefront of this transformation.

Many companies are now working with universities and colleges to identify future talent. This was noted particularly by hydrogen speakers who emphasised the challenge by noting that, in relation to hydrogen, we do not yet know when or at what pace the hydrogen transition will occur, what type of skills will be required, or how many individuals will be needed (pointing to the fact that electrolysers run with very little human input).

If you would like to discuss any of the matters discussed in this article, please get in touch with Sarah-Jane McArthur, Keith Patterson or your usual Brodies contact.


Shumail Javed

Senior Solicitor

Anisah Ali

Trainee Solicitor

Cecilia Hunter


Clara Wilson

Trainee Solicitor

Robert Bough

Trainee Solicitor