United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UK hydrogen strategy 'needs clearer focus on renewables'

Trade body RenewableUK slams government plans for seeming to treat blue and green hydrogen as ‘interchangeable’

The UK government has launched a consultation on its new Hydrogen Strategy (pic credit: AsimPatel/Wikimedia Commons)
The UK government has launched a consultation on its new Hydrogen Strategy (pic credit: AsimPatel/Wikimedia Commons)

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The UK government aims to have 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, but industry group Renewables UK has criticised the strategy for not focusing enough on developing a green hydrogen industry.

The government is consulting on using a business model similar to the contracts for difference (CfDs) used for renewable energy tenders in the UK in an attempt to reduce the cost gap between low-carbon hydrogen and fossil fuels.

Under the plan, the government would work with industry to assess the feasibility of mixing 20% hydrogen into the existing gas supply and determine what is needed from the UK’s network and storage infrastructure to support the hydrogen sector.

It is consulting on the design of a £240 million (€282 million) net-zero hydrogen fund to support the commercial deployment of low-carbon hydrogen production plants across the UK.

The government also plans to use a “twin track” approach to supporting multiple technologies, featuring a mix of green and blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen is made when renewable energy is fed through water, splitting oxygen from hydrogen molecules. Meanwhile, blue hydrogen is made by using methane to split natural gas to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide, though some of the carbon dioxide is then captured. 

Researchers from Cornell and Stanford Universities last week said blue hydrogen may be more harmful than gas and coal.

Not green enough

RenewableUK CEO Dan McGrail today said that the government’s strategy “doesn’t focus nearly enough on developing the UK’s world-leading green hydrogen industry”.

“The government must use the current consultation period to amend its plans and set out a clear ambition for green hydrogen,” he added. “We’re urging the government to set a target of 5GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyser capacity by 2030, as well as setting out a roadmap to get us there, to show greater leadership on tackling climate change.”

Meanwhile, director of future electricity systems at RenewableUK Barnaby Wharton said that both green and blue hydrogen would be needed to meet net zero targets, as green hydrogen is “truly zero carbon”, while blue hydrogen “can provide volume”. He said the government appeared to be treating the two as interchangeable and that he was concerned that creating a single market mechanism for both would be a “struggle”.

The government believes a UK hydrogen economy could be worth £900 million and create more than 9,000 jobs by 2020. This could then grow to being worth £13 billion and creating 100,000 jobs by 2050, by which point it could account for 20-35% of the UK’s energy consumption, it believes.

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