Renewable hydrogen has a key role to play in the UK’s successful transition from fossil fuels to renewables, alongside a huge expansion of wind energy and other clean power sources, according to a new report published today by RenewableUK.
“Powering the Future: RenewableUK’s Vision of the Transition” sets out a wide-ranging vision of how the UK’s energy system is set to change between now and 2050, the government’s target date to reach net zero emissions.
Despite the short-term impacts of Covid-19 on energy use, RenewableUK expects low cost renewable power to grow rapidly in the next ten years to meet new demand from electric vehicles, low carbon heating and renewable hydrogen. RenewableUK predicts that by 2050 renewables could be providing over three quarters (76%) of the UK’s power needs.
The study highlights the huge potential for green hydrogen – hydrogen produced using renewable electricity – as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels like gas or petroleum.
The UK’s mix of high renewable energy capacity and strong climate change policies mean that renewable hydrogen is likely to become cost competitive in the UK faster than in other parts of the world. Renewable hydrogen can be used instead of gas in factories – in heavy industries like steel-making - where progress on decarbonisation has been slow to date, as well as heating boilers in homes. It can also be used to power a CCGT plant and in hydrogen fuel cells for heavy good vehicles and shipping.?
A net zero emissions energy system would see low cost wind energy capacity grow six-fold to over 120 GW by 2050, attracting tens of billions in investment, alongside other renewable sources like solar and innovative floating wind and marine energy. In addition to these power sources, RenewableUK expects energy storage to grow exponentially as batteries and other forms of storage scale up to ensure our power supplies remain balanced at all times.
The document envisages significant changes in the way consumers use the energy system, with clean electricity rather than fossil fuels used to power transport and heating through electric vehicles, solar technology, heat pumps and other sources. As well as benefiting from cheap renewable power, consumers will have opportunities to reduce energy costs by, for example, selling power stored in batteries or EVs to the grid. This flexibility will be a key characteristic of the electricity system.
The report sets out a series of recommendations to government to deliver the right markets and policies to secure low-cost energy, decarbonisation and energy security. These include holding annual auctions for contracts for largescale renewable generators to provide low-cost power, rather than every two years, and targeting support specifically at innovative technologies which are not yet able to compete with more established power sources in these auctions.
RenewableUK’s new modelling in the report shows that, working with government to ensure that right policies in place, the UK’s offshore wind industry can attract £54bn in private investment to quadruple capacity to 40 GW by 2030, which will provide more than one-third of electricity demand, and grow further to 90 GW by 2050.
An additional growth in onshore wind to 26 GW by 2030 means the UK’s overall wind capacity can grow to 66 GW by the end of this decade, providing more than half the UK’s power. To meet growing electricity demand and its net zero emissions target by 2050, the UK’s wind energy capacity would expand six-fold from 22 GW currently to 126 GW by 2050.