The fight to reduce global emissions seems to be taking center stage in the UK, with the country citing plans of utilizing hydrogen heating to generate power. The UK is among developed countries making significant progress in achieving the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ status. Green Industrial Revolution is recommended for all industrialized countries such as the UK, US, China, Russia, Germany, and Japan. Various studies revealed how these industrialized giants are contributing to global emissions and fuelling climate change. If this situation persists, then the world will experience extreme conditions in the years to come.
The UK is rushing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and needs to switch the ‘traditional’ power harnessing mechanisms that are deemed dangerous to the environment. With viable industries and factories which are constantly manufacturing, processing, and producing power, there is a need for a U-turn from traditional ways of processing, manufacturing, and generating power. This move will also require a lot of renovation to be carried in the facilities where power is generated, and manufacturing is done to accommodate the novel way that produces clean energy and is safe for the environment.
The UK government proposed powering their nation through heating hydrogen rather than using fossil fuels. Under the proposal, more than 3 million households will use low-carbon hydrogen to harness the power in their homes, and this strategy is expected to gain about £4 billion investment. The UK government unraveled its plan to implement the hydrogen economy this week and stated that it is worth about £900 million. According to the plan provided, such a change will produce clean energy and is expected to create more than 9 000 high-quality jobs by the end of the decade. If everything goes as planned, the amount will rise to £13 billion alongside 100 000 new jobs by 2050 [Source].
Government officials explained how the hydrogen economy intends to attract 5 gigawatts of hydrogen by 2030, coinciding with the country’s plan to abandon coal-burning to generate power. The suggested gigawatts are sufficient to run the important sectors of their industries and power households. The strategy document shows that by using hydrogen, the power which would be produced can cover 20% to 35% of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050, at the same time providing clean energy for industries, power facilities, and transport as compared to the current oil and gas energy which is polluting the air. Numerous industry consultations will be carried out in gunning support for hydrogen projects to decarbonize most areas that cannot be driven by electricity. The funding of this mega project is yet to be revealed, and concerned stakeholders are wondering if Treasury will dole out the money or whether it will be collected from household bills.
The chief UK policy director at the CBI highlighted how this strategy is a good step towards a hydrogen-dominated economy. He said, “However, to truly capitalize on those large-scale economic opportunities and unlock the private sector finance needed, firms will now be looking for the government to provide detailed policies and standards for hydrogen production and application.”
And the government is tasked with rolling out more information to the economy players and the business sector on how they can take advantage of this new economy to cut their expenses and increase profits. The Hydrogen Projects include the use of green hydrogen and blue hydrogen. The concept of Green Hydrogen entails using an electrolyzer placed to run in water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen. A high-pressure steam process together with a catalyst such as nickel is used to make hydrogen. The process also creates carbon dioxide, either released into the atmosphere or pumped underground [Source].
However, studies from the US research facilities discovered the downside of using hydrogen in this manner. Professors from Cornell and Stanford universities contended how the process leaves a by-product of carbon dioxide and methane. These by-products are produced in large quantities, and the procedure of “carbon capture technology” cannot capture all emissions. This means emissions aired out into the atmosphere will be increased, so it is a complex process, especially for a country that seeks to reduce global emissions by 2030. Fossil fuels are the standard material used when gathering hydrogen, so it is more or less the same traditional ways of producing power that pollutes the air [Source].
The academics recommended using green hydrogen because it is made using renewable electricity in which hydrogen is acquired from water, and only oxygen is left. A co-researcher in the study, Professor Robert Howarth from Cornell University, commented on the research’s findings and said, “This is a warning to governments that the only ‘clean’ hydrogen they should invest public funds in is truly net-zero, green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy.”
In response to this study, the UK government proposed to continue with blue hydrogen but set out emissions standards that can be captured during hydrogen production. The set standards will align with all the objectives which qualify as “low carbon.” But environmentalists and researchers urged the government to abandon plans towards the use of blue hydrogen. The chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, Doug Parr, is against this idea and noted how it would prolong the UK’s vision of leaving fossil fuels.
His major worry was related to the expenses incurred if the government produces large quantities of hydrogen from fossil gas. If this is done, then the UK will enter “into costly infrastructure that is expensive and … may be higher carbon than just burning the gas,” as noted by Mr. Parr. In his recommendation, he said, “We’re urging the government to set a target of 5GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzer capacity by 2030 as well as setting out a roadmap to get us there, to show greater leadership on tackling climate change.”
The UK seems determined to go ahead with its hydrogen production plans after consulting with researchers, and it is showing progress in attaining net-zero carbon emissions if low carbon methods are used.