Industry big hitters pledge their support to calls for low-carbon hydrogen economy

The latest report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has got industry backing in its calls for the government to commit to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years which explores alternative fuels like hydrogen to meet the UK’s heating needs.

The CCC say hydrogen is a credible option to help decarbonise the UK energy system but its potential impact depends on early government commitment and improved support to develop the UK’s industrial capability.

Researchers believe that hydrogen can make an important contribution to long-term decarbonisation if combined with greater energy efficiency, cheap low-carbon power generation, electrified transport and new ‘hybrid’ heat-pump systems.

The 128-page report says there is low awareness amongst the UK general public of reasons to move away from natural gas heating to low-carbon alternatives and argues that a strategy should be developed for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to adopt zero-emission solutions by 2050.

Commenting on the report, chairman of the CCC, Lord Deben, said: “The government must now decide whether it wishes to develop a UK hydrogen option, taking decisions now that will see the first deployment in the 2020s. This must be in parallel with efforts to improve energy efficiency, build further low-cost renewables and get carbon capture and storage underway. The time for the government to move from theory to practice has arrived.

The report’s key recommendations are:

  • Government must commit to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years.
  • Significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen should be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘cluster’ by 2030 to help the industry grow.
  • Government must support the early demonstration of the everyday uses of hydrogen in order to establish the practicality of switching from natural gas to hydrogen.
  • There is low awareness amongst the general public of reasons to move away from natural-gas heating to low-carbon alternatives.
  • A strategy should be developed for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which encourages a move away from fossil fuels and biofuels to zero-emission solutions by 2050.

The CCC’s report echoes suggestions laid out in the National Infrastructure Commission’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment published in the summer which highlighted the need for trials of hydrogen, alongside greater research into heat pumps.

A spokesman for the NIC said: “The UK has made great strides in deriving more of its electricity from low carbon sources like wind and solar - the next challenge will be to make progress on reducing emissions from heating. The Government are due to respond to our National Infrastructure Assessment with a dedicated strategy next year, which should include plans for how to keep the UK’s energy supply low-carbon and low-cost.”

While engineering consultants WSP has said it is ready to support the CCC’s conclusions and insists they are working closely with developers and partners in this emerging market.

Steve Milward, director of Oil and Gas at WSP, added: “I am very pleased to see that the Committee on Climate Change recognises the dilemma raised by the electrification of heat and transport, and acknowledges the contribution that hydrogen can play in the decarbonisation of the UK economy. Furthermore, identifying the need for a carbon capture and storage cluster by 2030 is most welcome. The report confirms the relevance of the work which we have been doing within WSP to progress the low carbon economy”.

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