A government-backed study has supported the use of hydrogen as large-scale energy storage for power generated by renewables. Northern Gas Network (NGN) and ITM Power, who led the project, have hailed the results of the power-to-gas feasibility study as a “compelling step forward for the future of UK energy storage”.
The process would enable excess power to be converted to hydrogen at times when renewable output is high, essentially storing the energy produced. It is proposed that power is converted into zero-carbon hydrogen through an electrolyser developed by ITM Power, using only clean water and electricity.
The NGN/ITM desktop study examined the potential for hydrogen storage facilities of 50 MW and above, to be integrated with NGN’s distribution network. Four potential sites have been identified, with Gateshead seen as the ideal location for a large-scale demonstration plant of between 50MW and 100MW capacity.
The hydrogen gas can, in turn, be blended with natural gas to reduce the carbon intensity of gas in the grid. Reducing emissions from heat will be a priority if the UK is to meet carbon budgets, which require a 57% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Emission reductions in the power generation sector have enabled the UK to meet its 2020 carbon budget, with 2016 total emissions standing at 42% below 1990 levels. However, to successfully meet future targets, attention must now also be given to the heat and transport sectors.
Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up around 40% of the country’s energy consumption and 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2016 report from the government’s climate watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change.
There are a number of approaches to reduce emissions from heat. These include feeding green gas into the grid to mix with natural gas, electrification of heat, and hydrogen only networks.
NGN is already working on a long-term feasibility study to establish if it is technically and economically possible to convert the existing natural gas supply in Leeds to 100% hydrogen.