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RenewableUK calls on government to support ‘next big global industry’ green hydrogen

Green hydrogen could be used to provide flexibility, helping to balance excess wind generation.

Green hydrogen could be used to provide flexibility, helping to balance excess wind generation.

Trade association RenewableUK has called on the government to support the rapid development of green hydrogen in the UK, in a new study released today (23 September).

Renewable Hydrogen - Seizing the UK Opportunity says renewable electricity can be used to develop green hydrogen, which could play a key role in the UK's energy sector as a cheap and clean power source.

As such the government should publish a hydrogen strategy that includes a roadmap to 2050, detailing how it can be developed from a niche technology to a "central pillar" of the UK’s energy system. This should include how to deliver the first gigawatt of electrolyser capacity in the UK, identifying potential projects and funding.

The report recommends setting a target of 5GW of renewable electrolyser capacity by 2030, and doubling this by 2035. Additionally, the UK should set its sights on a cost reduction target of £2/kg of green hydrogen by 2030, down from £8/kg currently.

Hitting these targets would mean green hydrogen would be cost-competitive with blue hydrogen – that created using fossil fuels and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – within a decade. This is important, as while hydrogen could support the UK’s long-term green economic recovery by creating significant economic opportunities, particularly in coastal communities and industrial cities, CCS misses a fifth of carbon emissions.

RenewableUK’s director of future electricity systems Barnaby Wharton said that renewable hydrogen is the “next big global industry in the decades ahead".

“The UK is well placed to lead this new industry, with plentiful renewable resources and world leading hydrogen companies. We can drive down costs fast, replicating our spectacular success in offshore wind cost reduction, offering consumers cheaper energy.

"We can’t let this opportunity slip through our fingers if the UK wants to stay at the cutting edge of innovation in renewable energy, with all the economic benefits that will bring.”

Major trials such as the Gigastack project the Humber are already underway, giving the UK a "head start" the report notes. This project is set to use offshore wind farms to power electrolysers to generate green hydrogen. While manufacturers like ITM Power and Siemens are also based in the UK, giving the country an advantage.

Already, there is a pipeline of 27 renewable hydrogen projects which are operational, under construction, consented or in planning, with a capacity of 33MW according to RenewableUK’s Project Intelligence database.

Most recently, ScottishPower – along with ITM Power – announced it would use solar and wind generation to power a 10MW electrolyser in Glasgow in one of the largest green hydrogen projects in the country.

The global market for renewable hydrogen is expected to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050 said RenewableUK, and could up to 120,000 jobs could be created across offshore wind generation, the manufacturing of electrolysers and logistics.

“We’re urging government to come on board with us by setting out a strategy to secure a multi-billion-pound prize which will create tens of thousands of jobs around the country, especially in areas which need levelling up, as a key part of the UK’s green economic recovery,” finished Wharton.

Renewable hydrogen can offer a solution to many difficult to decarbonise sectors like heating homes and factories, and powering freight transport on land and sea. In July, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £350 million worth of funding to help decarbonise industry, including dedicated funding for green hydrogen as a potential pathway.

Additionally, it could be used to provide flexibility to the UK’s energy system, with excess electricity from wind farms used to generate hydrogen, which can then be stored and utilised when generation is low.

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