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The UK government on Tuesday released a new hydrogen use strategy that said the country’s hydrogen economy could potentially support up to 100,000 jobs and be worth up to £ 13 billion ($ 17.88 billion) by mid-century could.
In a foreword to the strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK’s economy and energy minister, said the government, in cooperation with industry, wanted to demand 5 gigawatts of “low-carbon hydrogen production capacity” by 2030 to be used throughout the economy.
“This could produce hydrogen equivalent to the amount of gas used by over 3 million households in the UK each year,” said Kwarteng.
Explaining how it could be used in the years to come, he added, “This new, low-carbon hydrogen could help provide cleaner energy for our economy and daily life – from stoves to distilleries, movie shoots to power plants, garbage trucks towards steel production and 40-ton excavators for the heat in our houses. “
While potential use cases for low carbon hydrogen are excited, the government’s strategy has also dampened expectations regarding the use of hydrogen for heating, stating that demand will be “relatively low” by 2030.
The 5 GW target was previously included in the government’s 10-point plan for a so-called “green industrial revolution” published last November.
In a statement accompanying the release of the strategy, authorities said that 20 to 35% of UK energy consumption could be hydrogen based by 2050. In the medium term, the UK hydrogen economy could unlock £ 4 billion in investment and create more than 9,000 jobs by 2030, the government said.
In addition to its hydrogen strategy, the UK government also published consultations on low carbon hydrogen standards, a net zero hydrogen fund and a hydrogen business model.
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One of the main strands of the strategy is to support what the government calls a “twin track” approach to various technologies, including “green” and “blue” hydrogen, with further details on production to be released in 2022 .
Called a “versatile energy carrier” by the International Energy Agency, hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways.
One method involves the use of electrolysis, where an electrical current breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used comes from a renewable source, some call it green hydrogen, which is currently expensive to produce.
Blue hydrogen refers to hydrogen made using natural gas – a fossil fuel – with the CO2 emissions generated during the process being captured and stored. Blue hydrogen has sparked a significant debate lately.
Just last week, a study by researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities, published in the journal Energy Science & Engineering, said greenhouse gas emissions from the production of blue hydrogen were “quite high, particularly due to the release of volatile methane.”
Based on a number of standard assumptions, the study’s authors claimed that the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen “is more than 20% larger than burning natural gas or coal for heat and about 60% larger than burning diesel oil for heat. “
Back in the UK, reactions to the government’s long-awaited hydrogen strategy were mixed.
Frank Gordon, director of policy for the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, said it provides “welcome clarity”.
“The REA urged the government to reassure investors that it is taking a technology-neutral approach and highlighting the range of low-carbon pathways,” added Gordon.
“The hydrogen strategy begins to answer these demands and offers a positive vision for the role of hydrogen in fulfilling the UK’s net zero ambitions.”
Elsewhere, Dan McGrail, CEO of the RenewableUK trade association, called for more when it came to green hydrogen. “While we welcome positive moves like the new Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, the overall strategy does not focus nearly enough on developing the UK’s world-leading green hydrogen industry,” he said.
“In the year in which the UK is hosting the largest climate change summit in years, we fear that international investors in renewable hydrogen could compare this strategy with those of other countries and vote with their feet on its plans and formulate a clear target for green hydrogen.”