A report published by RenewableUK urges the government to support rapid development of green hydrogen generated using renewable electricity as a cheap energy source for the future
The study, Renewable Hydrogen – Seizing the UK Opportunity, said the renewables sector is confident it can repeat the success of its world-leading offshore wind industry by driving down the cost of green hydrogen over the course of this decade. It said the technology can also play a key role in the UK’s long-term green economic recovery, creating significant new economic opportunities, particularly in coastal communities and industrial cities which need levelling-up most.
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. Renewable hydrogen also offers flexibility to the UK’s energy system as it can be made using electricity from windfarms and other clean energy sources when there is plentiful generation and then stored for when it is needed.
RenewableUK is calling for the government to publish a hydrogen strategy, including a roadmap to 2050, setting out how renewable hydrogen will grow from a niche technology to the central pillar of the UK’s energy system. This should include a plan to deliver the first gigawatt of electrolyser capacity in the UK, identifying potential projects and funding to drive innovation and investment.
RenewableUK also recommends setting a target of 5 GW of renewable electrolyser capacity by 2030 and 10 GW by 2035, along with a cost reduction target of £2/kg (US$2.50) of green hydrogen by 2030, down from £8/kg today. This would mean that by 2030, green hydrogen would be cost-competitive, or could even cost less to produce than blue hydrogen which is made from fossil fuel (methane) with carbon capture and storage (CCS). Clean hydrogen would also help us to reach net zero faster, as current CCS technology fails to capture up to a fifth of all carbon emissions.
The report highlights that the UK already has a head start in the global race to commercialise green hydrogen, with major trials underway such as the Gigastack project in the Humber. This is set to use renewable energy from offshore windfarms to make clean hydrogen by electrolysis.
The global market for renewable hydrogen is expected to be worth US$2.5Trn by 2050, so the UK has a major export opportunity in the decades ahead. A joint report by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Offshore Wind Industry Council published this month shows that up to 120,000 jobs could be created across offshore wind generation, the manufacturing of electrolysers and logistics.
RenewableUK director of future electricity systems Barnaby Wharton said, “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. We can drive down costs fast, replicating our spectacular success in offshore wind cost reduction, offering consumers cheaper energy.
“We cannot 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 are urging the 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 a related development, the DeepWind consortium in Scotland has signed a three-year agreement with the Wind Energy Cluster (WAB) in Germany, that aims to foster co-operation and joint initiatives for the expansion of offshore wind and the development of a market for green hydrogen from wind energy.
Joint matchmaking and networking events are among the planned initiatives. In addition, WAB and DeepWind will exchange and analyse information, experiences and knowledge and keep each other informed about progress in joint projects.
WAB chairwoman Irina Lucke said, “The Scottish Government understands the importance of rapidly expanding offshore wind and producing green hydrogen.”
Ms Lucke reiterated WAB’s call for a short-term special tender for offshore wind and for a concrete plan on how the German Government’s green hydrogen strategy can be implemented.
DeepWind cluster manager Paul O’Brien said, “Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind potential. This offers great opportunities for the cost-effective, large-scale production of green hydrogen.”