Decarbonising the UK economy will require a massive increase in clean hydrogen production, according to the Committee on Climate Change’s head of carbon budgets.
Speaking at an update of the HyNet project, David Joffe said the UK is “world class at setting emissions reduction targets” but must start delivering immediately to meet them.
To reach net zero requires multiple technologies and solutions and a “concerted package of action and new policies”, said Joffe, with hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) “pretty important”.
Electrifying heat and transport will “probably require a doubling of the electricity system,” said Joffe. “But that is not enough. We need to go from a bit of low carbon hydrogen to making it all low carbon, and having ten times as much.”
Much of that increase “will have to come from hydrocarbons plus CCS,” because producing hydrogen purely via electrolysis and renewables “would require a tripling of the electricity system … So we need CCS.”
Net zero is “really hard and we probably cant do it by 2025 or 2030,” said Joffe. Even to hit net zero by 2050 requires immediate concerted action.
“The first ten years is really important, otherwise you can wave goodbye to the target … So we need to get on with it,” said Joffe.
“There is an awful lot to do in the next ten years and one of the critical parts is infrastructure – and hydrogen and CCS are two of the key aspects.”
Beis: Private sector will pick up tab
Beis director general for energy transformation and clean growth, Julian Critchlow, spoke at the same event.
He suggested £700bn-£800bn would be required to decarbonise the economy. “We are not going to put that to Treasury, it will largely come from private investors, as it has in the wind sector, but we need to create the [enabling] framework,” said Critchlow.
While all technologies and pathways towards decarbonisation “are still on the table”, Critchlow said hydrogen “could have major implications in many industries”, with “significant export opportunities … and that is why we are so passionate about it”.
The HyNet project aims to build hydrogen plus CCS infrastructure in the North West, piping out emissions to be buried in the Irish Sea off Liverpool Bay, initially in the Hamilton Field.
The plan is to have a “shovel ready” project by 2021 if the regulatory investment framework is in place, according David Parkin, director at Progressive Energy, with first CO2 being transported through the system and a cluster “up and running by 2025”.
Parkin claimed the project “will take CO2 out of the UK economy at a lower price than virtually anything else you can do … it beats heat pumps and it beats new nuclear”.
However, the project “needs a revenue support mechanism to make it investible,” said Parkin, “policy that investors can hang their hat on in short order.”