CCC emphasises 'credibility' of hydrogen in new report

Hydrogen is a credible option to help with the next stage of the UK’s energy transition, but its role depends on early commitment by the government and enhanced support for the development of the country’s industrial capability, suggests a new report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The document, Hydrogen in a low-carbon economy, claims that hydrogen could make a contribution to long-term decarbonisation, provided it’s combined with cheap low-carbon power generation, greater energy efficiency, electrified transport and new hybrid heat pump systems.

According to the CCC, the potential to use hydrogen as a zero carbon energy source has long been acknowledged, but previous assessments have concluded it was too expensive and impractical to roll out at scale. The report finds that hydrogen could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system where electrification is not feasible or is too costly, such as industrial heat processes and back-up power generation.

The report also offers a series of actionable recommendations for policymakers so that the introduction of hydrogen can begin promptly. It urges the government to commit to developing a low carbon heat strategy within the next three years. This measure will encourage commercial investment in producing hydrogen that will ultimately provide heat for buildings and industry.

By 2030, the CCC says that significant volumes of low carbon hydrogen must be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘cluster’ to help the industry expand. Hydrogen should subsequently be deployed in applications that require no major infrastructure changes – including depot-based transport, power generation and injection into the gas network. Pilot projects should also be developed in these areas to demonstrate the practicality of switching from natural gas.

However, the report notes that moving the gas grid to 100% hydrogen is not a practical way to achieve zero carbon heat. It suggests that a mix of technologies must be deployed to provide low carbon heat. This sentiment is echoed by Ian McCluskey, Head of Technical Services at the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM).

‘While we agree that plans to deploy hydrogen at scale must start now, we believe the gas grid is ideally placed to play a key role in this area,’ McCluskey says. ‘Having said that, the existence of the gas grid does not preclude other solutions for decarbonisation. Hydrogen can play a valuable role as part of the heating solution for UK buildings. Hydrogen can also play a significant role in the decarbonisation of transport, especially for heavy duty vehicles such as buses, trains and lorries.’

‘The future now rests on Government making a quick decision and fully committing to low-carbon heat within the next three years,’ says Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC. ‘This is important to achieving the existing 2050 emissions target, but even more important as we consider whether it is possible for the UK to reach ‘net-zero’ emissions in the future.

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