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South Derbyshire's Hydrogen Innovation Project

This case study focuses on using the action learning process with the LGA to develop a community communication programme that reassures the local community that using hydrogen as a low carbon fuel for transport is safe.

This case study is a part of the LGA's Decarbonising Transport Action Learning Sets (ALS) programme


South Derbyshire District Council are developing a Hydrogen Innovation Project to assess the performance and cost benefit analysis of retrofitting two diesel fuelled Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCV’s) to a dual blend fuel of green hydrogen and diesel to support the decarbonisation of the Council’s vehicle fleet.

If successful this will provide a cost-effective solution to reducing carbon emissions from refuse collection trucks used in the Councils statutory kerbside waste collection service delivery.

What is the challenge?

This challenge is the public’s inherent safety fears of using hydrogen as fuel in local authority vehicles that are being used in public residential areas.

As highlighted by elected council members when this innovation project was approved, there will be a proportion of the public who will question the safety of using hydrogen fuel in the public space, the consequences of the dual fuelled RCV’s being involved in an accident and the lasting media legacy of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

What actions will be taken to address this challenge?

Using the ALS process the challenge was posed to the ALS group discussion and together we developed the following outputs that should be part of the awareness communication programme:

Engage with organisations that are already using and delivering hydrogen projects to get third party understanding and expertise

  • Partners engaged with the project, local Universities, other hydrogen experienced local authorities, project supply chain etc.

Balance the public’s inherent fears of hydrogen safety with the reality of the properties of hydrogen and its benefits.

  • Negatives – flammable, leaks, explosions, under pressure, invisible, fear of unknown.
  • Positives – clean, green, renewable, reduction in all tail pipe emissions, improved air quality, safe to use, increased skilled jobs, local economy growth, corporate social responsibility.

Launch a structured engagement and awareness campaign for all stakeholders that are directly or indirectly involved in this Hydrogen Innovation Project

  • Stakeholders - Residents, councillors and elected members, council employees, community groups, local business, local schools, colleges, universities & all project partners.
  • Engagement – all social medial channels, press releases, Council websites, RCV livery advertising, similar case studies, school & college visits, local open days, Council internal communications, elected members committee updates.

Actively gain feedback from the campaign and individual types of stakeholders to understand if the communication programme is effective.

  • Social media feedback – replies, likes, queries.
  • Stakeholder feedback.
  • Feedback & questions from residents, schools and colleges.
  • Feedback from council elected members and staff.  

Re-align the communication programme to active feedback by:

  • Responding to all enquires, questions and comments.
  • Align ongoing community communication programme to the active feedback being received.

What will be the impact?

The overall impact will be an increased awareness and understanding of Hydrogen, its benefits and the council’s rationale underlining the Hydrogen Innovation Project.

Residents and business will feel safe and secure that the council is operating two dual fuel hydrogen RCV’s in delivering local kerbside waste collection routes.

Stakeholders will understand the challenges of transport decarbonisation and through their involvement, engagement and feedback will feel part of the solution.

Stakeholders will be encouraged that their local council are piloting decarbonisation solutions to support carbon neutral targets and reducing global warming.

How will you look to sustain the approach in the long term?

The longer-term approach will include ongoing updates on the progress of the Hydrogen Innovation Project, the performance and behaviour change results of the Project and the narrative that is created out of these results.

Once the project has been completed there will be regular updates on future decision and delivery objectives that take place because of the Project completion.

Lessons learned on taking this challenge to through the ALS process

  • How to use this effective process to frame the question/challenge that needs to be tackled.
  • How the diversity of solutions to the above can result in engaging people with different expertise and no involvement with the challenge to discuss potential solutions.
  • How to develop the discipline to just actively listen to questions and challenges proposed.