Green hydrogen is “essential” for the UK to achieve net zero

Today, we released the latest copy of our Energy net zero. The publication takes an in-depth look at the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy. The below article analyses the UK landscape for hydrogen and how it is “essential” to achieve its climate goals. The article was originally published in the March 2021 issue.

To get the most up-to-date issue of Energy net zero, find out more about a subscription by speaking to Bertie on b.bagge@cornwall-insight.com or viewing our web page here.

The UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UK HFCA) has put out a position paper arguing for the role of green hydrogen in the UK’s net zero transition.

Published on 3 March, The case for green hydrogen argues that green hydrogen is “essential” to achieve net zero, and is a significant commercial opportunity for the UK. As a starting point, UK HFCA sets out how existing policies could be used to facilitate the expansion of green hydrogen (see Figure 1, which shows some of the recommendations put forward).

UK HFCA said the UK can deploy 10GW of green hydrogen by 2030 and reach up to 80GW by 2050 with the “right policy support”. The current UK target is 5GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2030, according to the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan.

The UK’s hydrogen strategy “must have green hydrogen at its core” and establish clear mechanisms to “rebalance” the current level of fossil fuel subsidies. UK HFCA says that current government policies act as a “tacit subsidy” on fossil fuels, with some policies providing an overt subsidy such as the red diesel scheme and the government’s continued deferral of planned fuel duty increases.

UK HCFA sets out a timeline for a UK hydrogen economy over the next 30 years:

  • 2020-25 – 5GW green hydrogen capacity deployed – targeted policy to expand small-scale and on-site distributed green hydrogen production. Hydrogen supported via a production fixed price for fixed volume mechanism.
  • 2025-30 – at least 10GW deployed – first offshore wind to green hydrogen projects, development support for several large distributed green hydrogen hubs, and green hydrogen production support through capital grants, tariffs and a CfD-type mechanism on hydrogen for projects that will be producing from 2030.
  • 2035-40 – target of 40GW deployed – complete phase-out of grey/brown/black hydrogen, and new supply limited to blue hydrogen or green hydrogen. Hydrogen constitutes 5-10% of total final energy consumed in the UK and the whole UK gas grid is 100% hydrogen tolerant, with blends reaching at least 20%.
  • 2040-50 – target of 80GW deployed – the UK gas grid is 100% hydrogen by 2050, green hydrogen is a traded commodity, and London is a “major trading hub point” for Europe.

This is a much more ambitious timetable than the government’s current target for low carbon hydrogen capacity and offers a much longer-term view. It adds to the chorus of reports and policy papers putting forward different visions for the net zero future.

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