At Marine Energy Wales we welcome the UK Government’s recent announcement that it plans to support the development of a homegrown hydrogen economy, with an initial target of 5GW of installed capacity by 2030. Hydrogen has an important role to play as part of a diverse energy mix, with integrated methods of energy storage and transport, where it can help the UK meet its net zero objectives.
Already in Wales we are seeing the development of hydrogen projects in areas in close proximity to marine energy development, with projects currently being advanced in two of the country’s ports. The Milford Haven Energy Kingdom is a small-scale demonstrator project showing the practical application of hydrogen powered vehicles as well as building a business case for smart local energy systems and further investment into hydrogen technology and infrastructure. The £4.5m project will conclude in Spring 2022, at which point the team will have also developed further designs for what the emerging hydrogen energy system could look like in the local area. The Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, which has already attracted nearly £5m in UK government funding, seeks to become the UK’s first hydrogen hub. The hub will initially act as a refuelling station for heavy goods vehicles that pass through the Port of Holyhead with plans to later scale-up, sourcing clean energy from the nearby Morlais tidal demonstration zone and providing hydrogen for further uses locally.
Through integration with our ports, marine energy can provide a green source of energy for the production of hydrogen. Both marine energy and hydrogen can naturally complement each other in a diversified energy mix, hydrogen acts as a storage vector for surplus marine energy during periods of peak power generation, whilst marine energy (along with other forms of renewables) can provide a clean green source of energy for hydrogen production. We therefore see that through careful cooperation these two energy industries can grow hand in hand, supporting each other in their contribution towards net zero.
One area that is currently missing from the UK Government’s hydrogen strategy is a clear plan for the production of hydrogen. Voices from across the energy sector are currently discussing the merits and drawbacks of blue hydrogen (produced from natural gas with carbon capture) and green hydrogen (produced from renewable energy) and the role each could play in an emerging hydrogen economy. A recent study suggests that blue hydrogen cannot be considered the low-emission pathway that many in the energy industry claim it to be, as such, focusing on building out blue hydrogen production capabilities could prove to be a large sunk cost that does not bring us closer to meeting our net zero objectives. Because of this we believe it vitally important that green hydrogen production be prioritised over blue so that emissions saving potential is at the core of the UK Government’s plans for a hydrogen economy. We await more details on how the strategy plans to prioritise different modes of hydrogen production, due in 2022.