Renewable hydrogen holds the key to avoiding future winter supply challenges


Future winter energy supply crunches can be avoided through renewable hydrogen from British wind farms and stored in disused oil and gas fields, according to research.

On 12 October, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) published A System For All Seasons, which – through analysing Britain’s electricity generation and consumption trends – found that wind and solar farms in the country generate enough spare electricity in spring and summer, when demand is lower, to produce 60-80GW of green hydrogen – equivalent to 25 Hinkley Point C power stations.

Using this spare renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen that would otherwise go to waste, would see the required total electricity generating capacity of UK wind farms drop from 500-600GW by 2050 down to 140-190GW – a 76% reduction. The alternative scenario would see additional windfarms having to be built for autumn and winter energy demand peaks, only to then be left unused during other times of the year.

Under the ENA’s proposal, 115-140TWh of green hydrogen would be stored, with its analysis finding the UK has enough capacity to do so through a combination of salt caverns and disused oil and gas fields in the North Sea. The potential storage volume from Britain’s salt fields ranges from 1TWh to 30TWh, whereas in disused oil and gas fields, the potential storage volume for individual sites ranges from 1TWh to 330TWh.

Mapping out the benefits of such a system made up of green hydrogen and seasonal storage, it noted that as well as being resilient by ensuring there is sufficient energy available during cold winter days, it would maximise the use of installed capacity and reduce the need for disruptive interventions in buildings that are deemed unsuitable for electrification.

The system would also prove more practical as, without seasonal storage, a prohibitive amount of wind capacity would be necessary, and more cost-effective, owed to the fact it can be delivered with minimal upgrades to existing infrastructure and is all in all cheaper to deliver. Based on this, it stressed hydrogen is a key enabler for allowing a wind-based system to function effectively and creating an energy system for all seasons.