Hydrogen Benefits in UK Government’s Much Criticised Energy Security Strategy

Written on the 8th April, 2022

The UK Government published its Energy Security Strategy in response to the rapid increase in energy prices and  the effects of the War in Ukraine  and sanctions against Russia in energy markets. The Strategy has been controversial particularly with its emphasis on nuclear power with plans to build up to 8 new nuclear reactors in addition to the one now being constructed.  Critics point out that the energy crisis needs action now, that the Government still has to build one nuclear power station after being in office for twelve years and that adding more nuclear power is a long term option.

There is also widespread criticism of the UK Government’s  commitment to increase oil and gas exploration in the North Sea with another licensing round in Autumn 2022.   The Introduction to the Strategy states:

“Even as we reduce imports, we will continue to need gas to heat our homes and oil to fill up our tanks for many years to come – so the cleanest and most secure way to do this is to source more of it domestically with a second lease of life for our North Sea. Net zero is a smooth transition, not an immediate extinction, for oil and gas.”

Many observers would take issue with this point especially with the IPCC Report on Monday stating that we need to take urgent action to avoid severe climate change. In addition, critics have argued that the UK Government is not doing enough to encourage energy efficiency in a national housing stock that needs urgent improvement.

On a more positive note, there are ambitious targets for renewables by 2030 and the target for hydrogen production by 2030 has been increased from 5 GW to 10 GW.  The 5 GW target was looking rather odd with the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Action Plan target of 5GW in Scotland alone but with the extra wind and solar renewable targets increasing, the hydrogen target could  be increased.

Never to be short of a superlative or two, the UK Prime Minister mentions hydrogen in the Foreword to the Strategy. He states that “We’re going to produce vastly more hydrogen, which is easy to store, ready to go whenever we need it, and is a low carbon superfuel of the future.”

The Strategy brings us down to earth with following actions which include a number of caveats such as affordability and value for money:

  • “doubling our ambition to up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, subject to affordability and value for money, with at least half of this coming from electrolytic hydrogen. By efficiently using our surplus renewable power to make hydrogen, we will reduce electricity system costs
  • aiming to run annual allocation rounds for electrolytic hydrogen, moving to price competitive allocation by 2025 as soon as legislation and market conditions allow, so that up to 1GW of electrolytic hydrogen is in construction or operational by 2025
  • designing, by 2025, new business models for hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure, which will be essential to grow the hydrogen economy
  • levelling the playing field by setting up a hydrogen certification scheme by 2025, to demonstrate high-grade British hydrogen for export and ensure any imported hydrogen meets the same high standards that UK companies expect.”

It will be interesting to see  how the UK Government will work with the European Union and other countries on issues such as certification and standardisation.

The UK Government is being very ambitious in terms of offshore wind and states that  “with smarter planning we can maintain high environmental standards while increasing the pace of deployment by 25%. Our ambition is to deliver up to 50GW by 2030, including up to 5GW of innovative floating wind.”  There are ambitious targets for other renewables such as solar  which should promote the production of green hydrogen.

 

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