Trade body RenewableUK outlines a series of policy recommendations to enable the UK to become a global leader in the development of green hydrogen
The UK government must publish a hydrogen strategy detailing how the fuel will evolve from a niche alternative to a central driver of the net zero transition, trade body RenewableUK has urged in a report published yesterday.
Titled Renewable Hydrogen - Seizing the UK Opportunity, the report calls on the government to back the development of 'green hydrogen' - produced using renewable energy - by supporting the renewable sector as it attempts to replicate the success of the UK's offshore wind industry.
"The Strategy should include a clear plan to deliver the first gigawatt of electrolyser capacity in the UK, identifying potential projects and funding where appropriate to drive innovation and investment, including "at scale" demonstrations for production and storage," the report states.
Driving down the price of renewable hydrogen will be critical to delivering on its potential, the study adds. It recommends setting a target of 5GW of renewable electrolyser capacity by 2030 and 10GW by 2035, along with a cost reduction target of £2 per kilogram of green hydrogen by 2030, from £8/kg currently.
This would mean that by 2030, green hydrogen would be at least cost-competitive with blue hydrogen, which is made from the fossil fuel methane in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS). Clean hydrogen would help the UK to reach its net zero enmission goal faster, the report argues, as current CCS technology fails to capture up to a fifth of all carbon emissions.
RenewableUK highlights that the UK already has a head start in the global race to commercialise green hydrogen, pointing to major trials such as the Gigastack project in the Humber.
The trade body is currently tracking progress across the nascent sector via its Project Intelligence database, which is monitoring green hydrogen projects around the UK. It covers a pipeline of 27 projects with a capacity of 33MW, including a handful that are already operational, for example projects powering ferries in Orkney and buses in Aberdeen.
Renewable hydrogen can be used as a zero-carbon gas to heat homes and factories, as well as powering freight transport on land and sea. It also offers much-needed flexibility to renewable-reliant power systems, as it can be made using electricity from wind farms and other clean energy sources when there is plentiful generation and then stored for when it is needed. For example, the UK could manufacture green hydrogen by drawing on renewable energy from offshore wind farms to power a process known as electrolysis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Manufacturers of electrolysers such as ITM Power and Siemens are already based in the UK, given the country an additional competitive advantage., the RenewableUK study argues.
The global hydrogen market is expected to be worth $2.5tr by 2050. RenewableUK's report follows a similar study published earlier this month which argued that a green hydrogen industry could generate £320bn for the UK economy and sustain up to 250,000 jobs by 2050.
Jointly published by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Offshore Wind Industry Council, the report argued the UK has the right combination of potential offshore wind capacity, a strong industrial base, and world-leading academic research hubs that could enable the development of a low-cost green hydrogen industry.
"Renewable hydrogen is the next big global industry in the decades ahead. The UK is well placed to lead this new industry, with plentiful renewable resources and world leading hydrogen companies," said Barnaby Wharton, RenewableUK's director of future electricity systems.
"We can drive down costs fast, replicating our spectacular success in offshore wind cost reduction, offering consumers cheaper energy. We can't let this opportunity slip through our fingers if the UK wants to stay at the cutting edge of innovation in renewable energy, with all the economic benefits that will bring. We're urging government to come on board with us by setting out a strategy to secure a multi-billion-pound prize which will create tens of thousands of jobs around the country, especially in areas which need levelling up, as a key part of the UK's green economic recovery."
In response, the government said it would be setting out its hydrogen strategy in due course, but that it was investing £120m into exploring the use of hydrogen as a fuel for heating, transport and industry, arguing the fuel has the potential to be "a vital part of the UK's future net zero energy mix".
"The Hydrogen Advisory Council, which brings together government and industry, recently met for the first time to develop actions to scale up hydrogen production in the UK," it said in a statement. "We will set out our strategy in due course."
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