As the price of renewables continues to drop, it’s looking more and more likely that a transition to clean energy is about making an investment in the future, whilst creating new and existing projects, and job opportunities across the globe.
Reports released by the Offshore Wind Industry Council and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult suggest that the UK has the right combination of factors to produce low cost, sustainable hydrogen without CO2 emissions from water electrolysis; a strong industrial base, offshore wind capacity potential and world-leading academic research.
However, the UK must at now if it wants to cut costs. Green hydrogen should be developed in the next five years – and critically, so should the supply and demand relationships, and the manufacturing and export industries needed to support it.
Britain could be on course to build the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid
If target dates are set for the connection of new large-scale hydrogen production plants to the gas network, this has the potential to stimulate demand for hydrogen production. This could ultimately increase the likelihood of investment in a hydrogen economy, and prime Britain to build the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid.
If this is pursued, it’s believed that hydrogen could become a major new manufacturing sector in the UK, offering a cheaper, cleaner alternative to the blue hydrogen that is produced from methane. Reports suggest that with accelerated deployment, green hydrogen costs could be competitive with those from methane-based production with CCS by the early 2030s.
The UK could produce up to 10,000GW in its own waters
It’s been indicated that 75-1,000GW will likely be needed for UK electricity generation by 2050. And the good news is that the UK has the potential to produce up to 10,000GW in its own waters – well above the figure thought to be needed.
The UK already has a head start when it comes to the global race to commercialise green hydrogen, with major trials underway – such as the Gigastack project in the Humber. As we’ve already mentioned, it would create significant new economic opportunities for the country, especially in coastal communities and the industrial cities which need levelling up the most.
Britain has a network of 284,000km gas pipelines, and changes need to be made for gas network companies to start blending large quantities of clean hydrogen with existing methane fossil gas – and these necessary changes have been set out in a report by Cadent, as part of the ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme.
As world-leading projects continue to demonstrate the technical and safety case for hydrogen blending, gas boilers and household cookers are already capable of managing a gas mix of up to 20% of hydrogen without an impact on the way those appliances are used.
As it stands, network companies are permitted to blend up to just 0.1% mix of hydrogen in the gas grid, but around 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year could be saved if a 20% hydrogen blend was rolled out across the country.
Finally, it’s estimated that bill payers could be saved £89bn if investment began today into zero-carbon hydrogen infrastructure. The UK would be a net beneficiary of any investment around five years ahead of the 2050 target, all while generating up to £320bn.