Government kick-starts the UK’s hydrogen future

The government has fired the starting gun on the race to put hydrogen into 3 million homes by 2030 with publication of its long-awaited Hydrogen Strategy.

The strategy recognises that hydrogen will play a critical role in decarbonising the UK’s heating, as well as in shipping, lorries and trains, suggesting that 20-35 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050 could be hydrogen-based.

Early next year, the government will launch a hydrogen sector development action plan that sets out how it will support companies to secure supply chain opportunities, skills and jobs in hydrogen. And it will consult on how to design a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which aims to support the commercial deployment of new low-carbon hydrogen production plants across the UK. It will also consult on how to help reduce the cost of producing hydrogen, favouring a model similar to that which established offshore wind production.

Other measures set out in the strategy include:
• Outlining a twin-track approach to supporting multiple technologies, including ‘green’ electrolytic and ‘blue’ carbon capture-enabled hydrogen production, and committing to providing further detail in 2022 on the government’s production strategy
• Working with industry to develop a UK standard for low-carbon hydrogen, giving certainty to producers and users that the hydrogen the UK produces is consistent with net zero while supporting the deployment of hydrogen across the country
• A review to support the development of the necessary network and storage infrastructure
• Working with industry to assess the safety, technical feasibility, and cost effectiveness of mixing 20 per cent hydrogen into the existing gas supply, which could reduce emissions by 7 per cent.

But the future role that hydrogen could play decarbonising heat won’t be finally decided until 2026. The government says it’s working with the HSE and Ofgem on hydrogen heating trials, the results of which, along with the results of a wider research and development testing programme, will guide its decision. If these are positive, it says, by 2035 hydrogen could be playing a significant role in heating people’s homes and businesses, powering cars, cookers, boilers and more.

The industry has reacted broadly positively to the strategy, welcoming the recognition that no single-technology solution will be able decarbonise the nation’s homes and businesses. Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), says: “The UK’s Hydrogen Strategy represents a huge step in the right direction for the introduction of the technology, something the heating industry is rallying behind in the decarbonisation process. The government’s commitment to hydrogen is a promising step, which will help to create thousands of jobs and decarbonise homes for millions of consumers with minimal disruption.

“We are enthused to see the government also recognise the role a hydrogen blend into the grid will play in reducing carbon emissions without homeowners needing to change appliances or boilers. It is of great importance that the transition to hydrogen does not cause disruption or large costs to consumers. The blend is a way to significantly reduce emissions with no change, which will in turn leave time for the groundwork to be laid for a seamless switch to 100 per cent hydrogen later on.”

• You can find out what the wider industry thinks about the publication of the Hydrogen Strategy in our September 2021 issue.

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