Government told to seize opportunity of renewable hydrogen


The government has been told to publish a hydrogen strategy and roadmap to 2050, setting out how green hydrogen can transform from a niche discipline to “the central pillar” of the UK’s decarbonisation strategy.

On 23 September, RenewableUK published a report, Renewable Hydrogen – Seizing the UK Opportunity, in which it set out how the renewables industry is confident it can once again innovate to drive down costs and reduce emissions with green hydrogen, as it did with offshore wind. As well as decarbonising the UK’s hard to reach sectors, such as chemicals, heat and transport, green hydrogen can also provide significant economic benefits. The report outlined regional job creation, the UK capitalising on its strengths to become a world leader and the potential for global exports as opportunities, with the global market for green hydrogen set to be $2.5tn by 2050.

However, for the benefits of green hydrogen to be maximised in the UK’s decarbonisation efforts and green recovery, action must be taken now. Drawing on how research from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult had shown that by 2030, green hydrogen can be competitive with, or cost less than blue hydrogen, the report stressed the need for the right framework to be put in place to drive down costs and upscale production.

To capture the benefits, the report made a series of recommendations, setting out a hydrogen strategy – which should be published by the end of 2020 – should include a clear plan to deliver the first gigawatt of electrolyser capacity in the UK and identify projects and funding to drive innovation and investment. As well as a strong carbon price, the government should also set a target for electrolyser capacity to signal to industry and provide a framework for policy development. RenewableUK recommended a target of 5GW by 2030 and 10GW electrolyser capacity by 2035, as well as a cost reduction target of £2/kg of green hydrogen by 2030, down from £8/kg today.

Elsewhere, it called for lessons to be learned from the wind industry by developing a revenue support mechanism for hydrogen production which takes carbon costs into account, driving investment and cost reduction through a hydrogen CfD or Hydrogen Obligation Certificate. The report also recommended government looking holistically at the decarbonisation of industry and heat, including the direct injection of renewable hydrogen to the gas grid, as well as private pipelines and behind-the-meter applications. This should include outlining specific measures for the deployment of renewable hydrogen in the forthcoming Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy.

Focusing on transport as a growth sector for hydrogen was recommended as a step in the short-term. This would mean levelling the playing field for hydrogen with other low carbon fuels through tax treatment and Road Transport Fuel Obligation.