Delivering hydrogen and carbon capture technologies at scale will be essential to enabling a net zero energy system in Britain, a report has stressed.
On 16 August, Aurora Energy Research published Out of gas?, exploring the ongoing need for thermal power generation to ensure security of supply, and the role of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as enablers of a net zero power system.
Gas-fired power stations currently play a key role in supplying on-demand, flexible energy to maintain security of supply alongside renewables, meeting key needs including inertia and voltage to keep the system stable. While there is currently 50GW of firm capacity required to meet peak demand today, Aurora forecast that this will rise to 80GW in 2050, with 100GWs of wind and solar added to the system over the same time span.
Even under an optimistic scenario for the deployment of renewables, nuclear and storage technologies, gas-fired power generation is set to remain an essential, reliable source of energy up to 2050. However, this would clearly be at odds with the net zero target.
This is where CCS and hydrogen conversion can offer gas power stations a viable route to aligning with net zero and continuing to deliver the reliable energy and key system operability needs they offer. It noted that meeting peak demand with these technologies is projected to cost around £40bn, whereas when pursuing alternative technologies, such as more renewables and long-duration storage, the cost is more than £170bn.
CCS and hydrogen turbines will require high levels of government support to realise such a role, with the report highlighting the roles of the Hydrogen Strategy and the government announcing its support mechanism for CCS as encouraging developments.
It further noted from its analysis that a key challenge arising from net zero, as 2050 verges closer, will be the rising cost of removing each additional tonne of emissions from the system. It mapped out how removing the last 1% of emissions from the power system will cost more than £1,500 per tonne, in contrast to the current UK Emissions Trading System price of around £50 per tonne. This is where the balance between the cost of removing the last few tonnes of emissions from the power system compared to using carbon offsets should be considered.