Hydrogen has been a topic of interest for many years as a vital option for decarbonisation – yet it’s utilised at a very small scale. While hydrogen is a clean and renewable energy when burned on its own, the emissions of producing it are a big challenge, as well as the safety, availability of infrastructure and expense. However, now hydrogen is sparking fresh interest as a part of the global mission of reaching net zero. In this blog, we debunk and explain five common myths when it comes to when it comes to hydrogen as a renewable energy source and hydrogen boilers.
Myth #1: Electrification is the only solution for decarbonising heat
Answer: One of the most popular myths is that electrification is the only solution for decarbonising heat. Although electrification is a significant part of the solution, there are other options to be explored. Another viable solution is hydrogen production, which is becoming an increasingly popular topic, as we continue to gain an understanding of its role in power production. According to the UK Hydrogen Strategy, it’s expected that hydrogen could, by 2050, make up between 20 – 35% of the UK’s total energy consumption. This will be central to decarbonising sectors that cannot easily be electrified. Hydrogen production also allows for the storage of otherwise curtailed renewable energy.
Myth #2: Hydrogen boilers are not yet ready for widespread deployment
Answer: In reality, multiple manufacturers have developed hydrogen-ready boilers. The boilers are created for hydrogen use but are also enhanced to have the ability to run on natural gas. Once your business is ready to use hydrogen, these boilers can be easily converted to accommodate the new fuel – so you won’t need to replace your boiler again. This will also make it possible for the UK to keep using its existing gas infrastructure, manufacturing, and installation capabilities in integrating hydrogen boilers in homes. This development will be key in driving the UK’s hydrogen strategy.
Myth #3: The different colours of hydrogen aren’t important
Answer: Understanding the different types – or ‘colours’ – of hydrogen is crucial. Each colour means something different regarding the production of the hydrogen you’ll be using, with different consequences for your carbon reduction strategy.
For example, ‘grey’ hydrogen is created using steam and methane – but also generates CO2, which means that it cannot be considered a low-carbon fuel. Alternatively, ‘green’ hydrogen is created using electrolysis of water, with no direct emissions. If this process is powered by renewables, it can be considered zero-emission. As such, the type of hydrogen you choose can impact your sustainability goals – and it’s crucial to stay informed on the best choice for your organisation. There are other ‘colours’ of hydrogen depending on the way it was produced, such as ‘blue’ hydrogen, ‘turquoise’ hydrogen – learn more about each one in this video.
Myth #4: Hydrogen competes with electricity
Answer: In reality, the common availability of hydrogen can serve as a complementary element to the use of electricity. Renewable energy is expected to dominate supply by 2050, but there will still be a need for a more affordable and long-term back-up for the colder months and the winter peak. This is where hydrogen renewable energy comes into play, providing a stable and reliable energy system, improving energy security, and reducing the risk of blackouts. This is because hydrogen enables large-scale storage of renewable power, which can mitigate periods of low renewable output. According to the UK Government, hydrogen can complement the electricity system, largely when it comes to harder to electrify spaces, such as parts of industry and heating, and in heavier transport.
Myth #5: Large-scale hydrogen storage is not possible
Answer: The development of hydrogen at scale is an integral component of the Government’s plan to reach its Net Zero commitments. For example, Guy Newey from the Energy Systems Catapult has stated that hydrogen will play a vital role in certain sectors of the economy and its usage will grow massively over the next 30 years in accordance with the UK hydrogen strategy.
With this in mind, we can expect that large volumes of hydrogen storage will be needed possibly in the early 2030s. The Rough reservoir, located in Humberside, has been storing gas safely for over 30 years – and has the potential to provide nearly half of the country’s hydrogen storage requirements. Plans to repurpose the reservoir are already making progress, accelerating the UK’s pathway to a hydrogen-powered future.
We’ve seen the reality behind some common hydrogen renewable energy myths. Could your organisation benefit from this new technology in the future?
At Centrica, we’re proud to be involved in a range of hydrogen projects. From planning to repurpose our Rough reservoir to pioneering hydrogen injection at Brigg with HiiROC, we’re helping to shape the UK’s hydrogen infrastructure. And when your business is ready to transition to energy assets like hydrogen CHP, our team of experts will be happy to help.
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