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Industry lobbyists highlight renewable hydrogen’s future role

Words: Huw Morris

Renewable hydrogen has a key role to play in the UK’s successful transition from fossil fuels to renewables, alongside a huge expansion of wind energy and other clean power sources, according to an industry body.

RenewableUK has set out a wide-ranging vision of how the UK’s energy system is set to change up to 2050 – the government’s target date to reach net zero emissions.  

Despite the short-term impacts of Covid-19 on energy use, RenewableUK expects low-cost renewable power to grow rapidly in the next 10 years to meet new demand from electric vehicles, low-carbon heating and renewable hydrogen. By 2050, RenewableUK predicts renewables could be providing 76 per cent of the UK’s power needs.  

Its research highlights the “huge potential” for green hydrogen – hydrogen produced using renewable electricity – as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.

The UK’s mix of renewable energy capacity and climate change policies mean that renewable hydrogen is likely to become cost competitive in the UK faster than in other parts of the world, it said.

Renewable hydrogen can be used instead of gas in factories where progress on decarbonisation has been slow to date, as well as heating boilers in homes. Green hydrogen from renewables can also be used to power a turbine in the same way as a combined cycle gas turbine plant currently works, as well as in hydrogen fuel cells for heavy good vehicles and shipping.

A net-zero emissions energy system would see low-cost wind energy capacity grow six-fold to over 120GW by 2050, attracting tens of billions in investment, alongside other renewable sources like solar and innovative floating wind and marine energy. RenewableUK also expects energy storage to grow exponentially as batteries and other forms of storage scale up to ensure power supplies remain balanced at all times.   

“We’re entering an era of rapid technological change as we move closer towards total decarbonisation, using an even wider range of technologies such as renewable hydrogen alongside more wind, solar, battery storage and – crucially – people participating far more proactively in the way our modern energy system operates, making it more flexible,” said RenewableUK’s chief economist Marina Valls.

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