A study by Energy Futures Lab suggests that accelerated support from the Government could make the UK a global leader in green hydrogen. The report published by Energy Futures Lab, Imperial’s global energy institute, explains that the UK’s offshore wind potential makes it ideal for hydrogen production from renewable electricity, with the capacity to export large volumes to neighbouring countries.
The study, ‘Enabling the UK to become the Saudi Arabia of Wind? The cost of green hydrogen from offshore wind explains that green hydrogen is required to decarbonise other industries that cannot be electrified, but believes further support is needed to reduce costs in the coming years.
Dr Olusola Bamisile, author of the report, states that thanks to our expansive coastline and windy seas, the UK is one of the most suitable locations in Europe to produce wind power. Using this energy to produce hydrogen will enable the UK to store additional energy and provide industries with a clean alternative energy source to conventional fossil fuels.
Currently, the majority of hydrogen is produced with natural gas, which results in the production of greenhouse emissions. Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis, a more environmentally beneficial alternative, but two to three times more expensive. Hydrogen is a critical element for our society and holds great potential to decarbonise existing production, and act as a clean fuel for other industries, states Luke Hatton, co-author of the report. Recognising the costs and potential barriers to green hydrogen production is critical to determining its place in achieving net zero.
While production costs are forecasted to decline in the coming years, the report states that without the necessary intervention, green hydrogen could face a challenge where demand is influenced by cost and vice versa.
The need for political support
The report believes that political support is vital to progress green hydrogen production in the short term and believes it necessary to drive hydrogen through a critical cost reduction stage. These policies would deliver safer investment conditions for early-stage projects, enabling further momentum and guaranteeing additional cost reductions.
Dr Malte Jansen, co-leader of the report, explains that it is nearly impossible to have a future where hydrogen will not have a major influence on the decarbonisation of our economy. For some industries, there is no alternative, but cost remains a challenge. Electrolysers continue to be expensive, which is why the UK needs the Government to intervene and support the scaling of the technology to reduce the overall costs of hydrogen. The report believes that there is an opportunity to make the UK a significant energy and technology exporter, with multiple economic benefits associated with this move.
Cost isn't the only challenge facing the hydrogen industry. The report suggests the need to tackle supply chain issues within the UK offshore wind market and create new flexibility methods to eradicate the dependence on fossil fuels during periods of low wind output. The long-term benefits of investing in the industry are significant. Supporting wind-driven hydrogen could help the Government fulfil its goal of making the UK the ‘Saudi Arabia of Wind’. There is an opportunity to make the nation a significant energy and technology exporter, but this requires major investment. The UK has the resources available, which puts the country in a strong position to capitalise on this.
The report is one of several recent publications, bringing together the experience of multiple teams at Imperial to explore the challenges associated with moving towards a low-carbon energy future.