Hydrogen produced from both renewables and methane can meet 48 per cent of UK final energy demand by 2050, calculates Aurora Energy Research.
Green hydrogen (produced via electrolysis) or blue (via reformed methane and carbon capture and storage) could produce as much as 500 terawatt hours of power, suggests the consultancy, which counts professor Dieter Helm among its board of directors.
Adopting hydrogen at that scale would entrench renewables deeper in the power grid, Aurora argues, as the gas becomes an easy stand-by source for generation.
As a generating source, wholesale clean hydrogen could cost as little as £50/MWh by mid-century, Aurora estimates.
Salt caves would provide standard storage, backed up by a national reserve of 7GW to cover short term needs.
Researchers calculate hydrogen could also mutually benefit the power system and producers as renewable generators could push excess power into hydrogen production, leading to lower production costs, with hydrogen produced power feeding back into the system and reducing balancing costs. Aurora suggests that benefit could total £3bn/year by 2050.
The country’s gas networks could also be adapted to hydrogen, enabling mass conversion of boilers to provide clean heat and hot water.
While green hydrogen could help decarbonise the power sector to a large degree, decarbonising heat and transport would require the bulk of hydrogen to come from methane with CCS, states the report.
“Low-regret” options for government, Aurora argues, include stimulation of hydrogen demand in key sectors like manufacturing, transport and power, the deployment of CCS close to high-carbon sites and the standardisation of networks.
“These initiatives could form an important part of the UK Government’s post-covid stimulus plan,” Aurora Energy said.
“Stimulating the development of hydrogen infrastructure in the UK could facilitate the low-carbon energy transition as part of the UK’s efforts to hit its net-zero target and unlock opportunities across UK industry and transport,” added Aurora Research’s Felix Chow-Kambitsch.
In February UK gas industry leaders set up the Hydrogen Taskforce, seeking ministers’ buy-in for the fuel’s transformative capabilities. Germany has launched its Hydrogen Strategy the EU’s hydrogen strategy is expected next month. The UK’s hydrogen lobby last week urged the Chancellor not to fall behind.
See Aurora’s report here.