Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 class of 2023: Rhodri Hawkins, Green Cat Hydrogen

This series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next, Rhodri Hawkins, process design engineer at Green Cat Hydrogen.


Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 class of 2023: Rhodri Hawkins, Green Cat Hydrogen

More than just a list, edie’s annual 30 Under 30 initiative shines a spotlight on talented sustainability and net-zero professionals – aged under 30 – who are delivering on efforts to build a better future and showing fantastic promise for their future potential.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the initiative has returned for 2023-4, with the new class having been announced last September.

In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.

Our next profile interview is with Rhodri Hawkins, process design engineer at Green Cat Hydrogen – a Scotland-based energy solutions developer.

How I got to where I am now…

“Growing up in Shetland, I was surrounded by conventional and new energy infrastructure, sparking my fascination with how it all worked together. This curiosity led me to study chemical engineering at Edinburgh. Sustainability always captivated me, and I found innovative processes particularly inspiring for their potential to restore the environment and improve quality of life. Early on, I knew I wanted a career dedicated to driving positive change.

“While at university, I held various part-time jobs, but working with a small startup in Leith producing low-carbon whiskies significantly influenced my path towards sustainability. Subsequent work with gas systems and low-impact water disinfection further solidified my commitment to green hydrogen. I was motivated to collaborate with others to combat the unprecedented threat of climate change.

“Now, as a Process Design Engineer, I develop exciting hydrogen projects. Alongside my engineering training, I pursued a PGCert in Hydrogen Safety and finished numerous sustainability courses which have been instrumental in my growth. My current passion is in how clever process design can holistically minimize environmental impact, addressing areas like water use, fugitive emissions and energy consumption.

“In this fast-moving industry, I identified a need for advocacy in systems thinking and sensible economic and environmental practices. I strive to be an optimist for a future where energy is cheap, plentiful, and equitable while critically evaluating approaches to ensure focus and resources are directed where they can do the most good.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

” I conceptualised and led an open-source project called H2AuxInvest to break down barriers in the hydrogen industry. This involved securing external funding, assembling a talented team of engineers, programmers, and other professionals, and of course, involved one too many late nights spent coding and/or doing maths. H2AuxInvest aims to address investor and stakeholder perceptions of risk, particularly concerning up-front and ongoing costs in the hydrogen sector.

“With our small team over a year, we developed a user-friendly web app and API to answer fundamental questions around decarbonisation, including costs and potential tech pathways. This is launching on 24 June at  www.calculateh2.org. I wanted to make sure we help businesses, especially the rural and SME sectors, by providing necessary evidence to justify investments in hydrogen-based decarbonisation. Being open-source means we openly offer valuable insights to foster a more transparent and equitable energy system.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“Doing the best I can to adapt to new pitfalls currently faced by a lot of us in the ‘net-zero’ world.

“A tricky issue in the hydrogen arena is that the costs of actually building net-zero infrastructure are currently really high and in the immediate future are increasing, rather than decreasing as expected. This means no generous cost decreases to pass on meaning that in a lot of places where hydrogen is the “best” choice, that current carbon taxes aren’t strong enough to incentivise a fossil fuel user to actually decarbonise rather than deferring action and passing costs to consumers instead.

“I speak to people every day who are leading, and being creative to solve this, but this issue – which is by no means unique to hydrogen –  really requires attention to avoid stalling the current effort to directly decarbonise and futureproof industrial facilities all over the UK.”

If I had to describe my generation in a word or phrase, I would say…

“Bold.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“Playing a meaningful part in enabling economic and environmentally friendly decarbonisation in areas of the country where there are few alternative options by pushing ahead with construction and delivery of a multitude of new hydrogen production plants and other associated net-zero infrastructure.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“When it’s sunny, I love hiking in the Pentland Hills with my friends. It’s the perfect way to connect with nature, catch up on all the gossip and relax your mind. When it rains, I enjoy playing strategy games to relax me, and fencing to get me pumped.  

“I also love VJing, where I create dynamic visual art at live gigs.

“I additionally volunteer as the treasurer for the Institute for Chemical Engineering’s Clean Energy Special Interest Group (CESIG). We try to run a webinar around once a month and invite technical experts across clean energy to give a proper talk and hold their own in a Q&A.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is…

“Even if you’re uncertain about the immediate profitability, fully investigate sustainable solutions. There’s a world of organisations eager to support you, often free of charge, particularly if you’re an SME.

“Sustainable solutions rarely fail to be the best option in the long-run. At worst, even if an unsustainable approach seems initially more profitable, you’ll be prepared for future regulations and market shifts. At best, your boldness and optimism will benefit you financially while safeguarding health and the planet. Embrace sustainability as a core strategy—it’s not just good for the environment, but a smart business move.”

My key pieces of advice for young people entering my industry today would be…

“Firstly, don’t worry—AI won’t replace you. Focus on networking and developing both your numerical and soft skills in parallel. Stay aware of industry trends but avoid groupthink at all costs. Stay positive, sustainability-related fields will continue to grow.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge popular beliefs if science and evidence is on your side; popular opinion is often wrong. If you work on solving complex problems, hone your systems thinking skills.

“If you want this career, be prepared for endless jargon, poor information sharing and for sentiment to go up, down and around in circles. But know that your work does good and is worth the challenge.”

The full 30 Under 30 Class of 2023 membership is detailed here

Nominations for the next edie 30 Under 30 class will open in July 2024. Subscribe to our daily email newsletters to make sure you don’t miss your chance to apply.

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