Hydrogen and the UK’s transition to Net Zero


9th October 2023

This week sees over 3,000 hydrogen professionals meet in Rotterdam to discuss all things hydrogen at World Hydrogen Week (‘WHW’).

WHW aims to advance the transition of clean and sustainable energy by, ‘driving the innovation, commercialisation and widespread integration of hydrogen to achieve net-zero targets‘. Back here in the UK, the hydrogen industry is continuing to grow to meet the government’s ambition to deliver up to 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.

In fact, the government’s ‘Powering Up Britain’ plan confirms that there are over 200 companies currently working on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the UK and the government suggests that its 2030 hydrogen production ambition could produce enough clean electricity to power all of London for a year.

Transition

It is evident that low carbon hydrogen has a critical role to play in the UK’s transition to net zero. However, in understanding the benefit of hydrogen we must also understand the different complex production techniques:

  • ‘Grey’ hydrogen = this type of hydrogen is the least environmentally friendly given that its production is by way of splitting natural gas into hydrogen and CO2.
  • ‘Blue’ hydrogen = production of this type of hydrogen by carbon capture utilisation and storage (‘CCUS’) results in the CO2 created during production being captured before it escapes into the atmosphere and thus is more environmentally friendly than Grey hydrogen.
  • ‘Green’ hydrogen = this is the cleanest type of hydrogen and is produced by splitting water into hydrogen via an electrolysis process (electricity used for the electrolysis process is created using renewable energy), resulting in no CO2 being produced.

The UK requires hydrogen as a key source of energy to allow it to transition into its net zero target. However, whilst green hydrogen is 100% sustainable, it is currently expensive to produce as the cost of using the renewable energy to power the electrolysis process is high.

Therefore, the aptly titled ‘Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net Zero’ confirmed that the, ‘government should deliver hydrogen business models as soon as legislation allows and confirm the long-term funding envelope available for hydrogen revenue support, to incentivise timely investment.’

As such, there is a multifaceted approach required to developing the hydrogen industry, including research, innovation and development, reducing the cost of renewable power streams, providing confidence to offtakes to invest, securing transportation, storage and distribution infrastructure and investing in cross-industry supply chains, jobs and skills.

Energy Security Bill

Consequently, and as a result of the need to develop the industry The Energy Security Bill is in its final stages of Parliament, and when enacted will assist the hydrogen industry by:

  • Accelerating the growth of low carbon technologies by introducing business models for CCUS and hydrogen, as a result guaranteeing long-term investment, that should also entice private backing.
  • Developing and increasing hydrogen transport and storage networks.
  • Increasing knowledge exchange within the CCUS sector.
  • Delivering a large village hydrogen heating trial by 2025.

Blake Morgan

With the ever-developing landscape to promote hydrogen production and the clear drive to a cleaner future, Blake Morgan has the knowhow to assist holistically with hydrogen related projects.

Our Construction, Commercial, Corporate and Regulatory Teams can assist with all stages of a hydrogen production facility development, including dealing with the procurement of the professional team and contractor, negotiation of construction contracts, offtake contracts, dealing with corporate governance, health and safety and ancillary documentation.

Please contact Joanna Rees, Miles Murphy, James Williams or Tomos Lewis.

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