CCC urges government to develop hydrogen plan

22nd November 2018

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Cliona Howie

Hydrogen is a “credible” alternative energy source that could be used to cut emissions across the UK economy, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has declared, but warns that deployment will require strategic government planning.

In a report released today, the watchdog outlines how hydrogen can help deliver cheap low-carbon power generation, electrified transport, and new ‘hybrid’ heat pumps.

It said the resource could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system where electrification is not feasible, and that its application should require no major infrastructure changes.

However, the CCC also warns that hydrogen is “not a silver bullet”, and that its role will depend on early government commitment and improved support to develop the UK’s industrial capability.

“The government must now decide whether it wishes to develop a UK hydrogen option, taking decisions now that will see the first deployment in the 2020s,” CCC chairman, Lord Deben, said.

“This must be in parallel with efforts to improve energy efficiency, build further low-cost renewables and get carbon capture and storage underway – the time for the government to move from theory to practice has arrived.”

The CCC said pilot projects for transport, industry and buildings should be developed to showcase the everyday uses of hydrogen and the practicality of switching from natural gas.

It urges the government to raise awareness among the public about the benefits of making the switch, and to develop a low-carbon heat strategy that encourages commercial investment in hydrogen within the next three years.

Significant volumes should be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘cluster’ by 2030, the report recommends, while a strategy for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles is also needed.

However, the CCC also highlighted how natural gas is likely to be the main energy source for hydrogen production, which is not a net zero carbon process, even with CCS.

Producing it from renewable electricity in bulk is expensive, while the watchdog also warned that switching the gas grid to 100% hydrogen is impractical for zero carbon heat.

“There remain significant obstacles to the decarbonisation of industry, transportation and heat, even as the UK has focused on cleaning up electricity generation over the last decade,” the CCC said.

“The report offers a new impetus for early government action – hydrogen should be viewed as a credible option in the next stage of the UK’s energy transition.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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