Charlotte Struye, Deputy Director at Cleantech Flanders, spoke on Monday at a cleantech event in Cambridge addressing over 20 businesses, and stated that “The problem of global warming is a shared one. We are all facing, more or less, the same environmental issues and are in dire need of green technologies.” 

Belgian businesses and clusters (such as GreenWin and Cleantech Flanders) working in clean technology are visiting the UK as part of the Belgian Economic Mission, a 4-day trade and political visit presided over by HRH Princess Astrid, organised to strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries.  

Collaboration and trade between the UK and Belgium in the cleantech sector holds huge potential for growth, with leading innovation clusters in both countries in Cambridge, Wallonia and Flanders. 

Attendees and speakers discussed developments such as solar glass, circular economy production, retrofitting older buildings to make them more energy efficient and the issue of green energy production.  

Chairing a roundtable on the future of energy, policy lecturer at the University of Cambridge Dr Cristina Peñasco said, “We can have a multiplicity of technology and figure out what works the best for each sector […] It’s not that wind or water is the one miracle, we’re going to need a huge variety of energies to get where we need to go.” 

Specifically on the position of hydrogen in the energy sector, Niall Haughian, CFO and co-founder of Focal Sun solar-to-hydrogen technology said:  

“Hydrogen seems to attract extremes and somewhere in between is the right place. The reality is that green hydrogen is exceedingly expensive, so we should be focusing on using hydrogen as a fallback position with electricity as the primary source. [Electricity] is cheap and we already have the infrastructure in every household, ripping out gas boilers to replace them with hydrogen ones will be unaffordable to many and that disadvantages the most vulnerable. So electricity should be the primary source and where it’s not possible to use electricity hydrogen can be the fallback.” 

Speaking on the issue of whether policymakers should pursue green or blue hydrogen, Dr Lata Sahonta, Research Manager at Energy Interdisciplinary Research Centre, University of Cambridge concluded: “It’s not about blue vs green. We need blue and green to achieve 2050 net-zero goals, starting with green in industrial scenarios, and applying it to other sectors as the technology develops.” 

She went on to discuss how new energies might address inequality saying, “The government needs a comprehensive plan on how to rollout new technologies and, at the moment, they don’t have that. We know from the hydrogen strategy that they are trying to use [them] as a means to pull people out of poverty, but they’re very fuzzy on how that might work.” 

The Belgian Economic Mission is hosted from 9th – 12th May 2022. Belgian Ministers, HRH Princess Astrid and 406 business leaders are visiting the UK. A key international economic player, Belgium is ranked 13th in the world for both exports and imports by the World Trade Organisation in 2021. The country’s central European location matched by its prosperous ports makes it an ideal gateway for UK businesses looking to trade in Europe – it makes up 75% of the EU market (GDP) and 40% of consumers. 

For more information on the Belgian Economic Mission and its upcoming events please visit visit belgianeconomicmission.be