7 February 2024
Fast forwarding the move to low-carbon fuels
Many of our experts have joined DecarbDiscussions to consider the pros and cons of hydrogen as an alternative, low-carbon fuel.
This is because hydrogen – and particularly green hydrogen – could support the decarbonisation of the gas sector, provide seasonal storage, and help curb emissions from hard-to-electrify sectors like logistics or aviation.
Several of our experts argued that, to restore the UK’s position as global leader in decarbonisation solutions, we need to boost the hydrogen economy and make this low-carbon fuel more cost-effective and readily-available.
Darren Elsom, former Director of Hydrogen Development & Operations at Cadent Gas Limited, argued that hydrogen will play a crucial role in the UK’s future energy mix, and that boosting the generation and delivery of low-carbon hydrogen will be essential.
“There's been some fantastic work done from a research and development point of view over the years,” he said. “Things are moving forward, but ultimately this is about delivering it. We need to actually get on with it and build the production plan to produce hydrogen, have a transportation system, and get storage in place. Some of these actions are several years in the making.”
He added that, while clear objectives have been established, the UK is missing a plan for how to actually achieve them. “The Government has been clear on their target in terms of 10 GW of production by 2030, and we're already in 2023. The main thing for me now is making it happen.”
But how can we “make it happen”, and what are the policies that would fast forward the development of an advanced hydrogen economy?
Charles Perez-Storey, Principal Engineer at Progressive Energy, suggested that “blending should be sanctioned and the GSMR [Gas Safety Management Regulations] change ought to happen, so that by 2025 we’ll have all the barriers removed and get ahead of the game again.” He pointed out that “the UK has fallen behind America and Europe in decarbonisation, so achieving those three things will be fantastic.”
Charles’ wish was partly acknowledged when the Government announced it would support the blending of up to 20% hydrogen in the existing gas network, following successful trials and safety assessments. But the road to developing a thriving hydrogen economy is still long.
Part of the problem, according to Christer Stoyell, Managing Director of Severn Trent Green Power, is the general delay in getting renewable energy projects up and running. In our podcast, he expressed concerns about slow grid connections, and argued that getting renewable energy projects online faster is a priority.
“The speed of connecting new renewable assets into the power grid can often be quite challenging, with lengthy time frames,” he said. “If we could try and speed it up, you’d start to see some of that bear fruit. That would make a big difference.”
Better access to knowledge and support
When ground-breaking ideas about the future of energy are concerned, it’s always good to hear the opinion of leading academics working on cutting-edge research projects. That’s why on DecarbDiscussion we also invited Dr. Grant Wilson from the Birmingham Energy Institute. He said he wishes people felt more connected to the energy world, and that the available knowledge and data within the sector were made more widely accessible.
“I would love to see more of that data provided in a way that more people can understand, so that they don't feel that the energy system is just changing, and they don't know why,” he said. “This inevitably leads them to think the worst, or makes any changes difficult to buy into.”
Finally, it’s important to hear from those who support vulnerable energy users on a daily basis, to discuss how to progress towards a just transition and implement more inclusive and thoughtful reforms. To discuss this, we invited Matthew Cole, Head of the Fuel Bank Foundation. “I’d make properties more energy efficient and just make sure that we use the energy we need to,” he said. “Then people's bills would reduce straight away.”
He added that energy efficient homes would make residents feel warmer and more comfortable, but that unfortunately the costs involved in this kind of refurbishment are high.
The wishes and ideas shared by our experts highlight the need for a clearer strategy to move forward with the UK’s decarbonisation agenda – one that includes a mix of several low-carbon sources, and considers the need to improve access to information and support. The collaborative approach and information-sharing we encourage at Xoserve are small steps in the right direction, and we hope to be able to play our part in making our experts’ wishes come true.
Decarb Discussions: our decarbonisation podcast
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