The country has just revealed its strategy to kick start a low carbon hydrogen sector as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”. This is an essential step to reach the country’s net-zero targets, and could provide a third of the UK’s energy.
The government plans to provide 5GW of hydrogen production capacity – that’s enough energy to power roughly 550 million LED bulbs by 2030. This would generate more than 9,000 jobs and grow to a value of £900 million (€1.05 billion) by the same date.
Up to 35% of the UK’s energy consumption could be hydrogen-based by 2050 according to a government analysis.
Given that it costs more to produce hydrogen compared to currently used fuels, there are plans to introduce subsidiaries to cover this.
Hydrogen can be used to power vehicles as well as supplying heat and electricity. It could go a long way to decarbonising polluting industries including heavy transport as well as chemical and steel production.
According to the government, low-carbon hydrogen economy would cut the same amount of emissions by 2032 as would be captured by 700 million trees.
The plans for projects include both green and blue hydrogen schemes. Green hydrogen is produced when water is split using renewable energy leaving behind only oxygen as a by-product. Blue hydrogen on the other hand is extracted from fossil fuel gas and any GHG emissions are captured and stored underground. While it is not as clean, producing the fuel this way is cheaper.
UK ministers want an approach to hydrogen production which would see both technologies utilised.
In a study released last week, scientists at Cornell and Stanford University found that in some cases the carbon footprint of blue hydrogen could be up to 20% worse than using either gas or coal. It was 60% worse than burning diesel oil. They warn that blue hydrogen may be a “distraction” or potentially “delay needed action to truly decarbonise the global energy economy”.
However, the UK government says it will set out targets for blue hydrogen projects to ensure they are capturing enough of their emissions to be considered low carbon.