Bill Gates details importance of using hydrogen
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The UK’s energy networks have announced that the country’s gas grids could be ready to deliver hydrogen as early as this year. Hydrogen, which is created by splitting water, is regarded as a future low-carbon replacement for natural gas in many hard-to-decarbonise sectors, like heavy industry. With the grid soon ready to carry hydrogen, energy companies could blend natural gas with hydrogen, thus reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuel imports. Over the past year, the country is scrambling to end its reliance on oil and gas by accelerating the development of renewable energy.
In new plans published by the Energy Networks Association (ENA), Britain’s gas grid will be ready to blend hydrogen across the UK from next year.
The industry body published Britain’s Hydrogen Blending Delivery Plan, which laid out plans for how all five of Britain’s gas grid companies could meet the Government’s target of being ready to deliver 20 percent hydrogen to homes and businesses by 2023.
The plans will also allow the UK’s gas-fired power plants to begin using blended hydrogen to generate cleaner electricity, replacing up to a fifth of our natural gas usage.
ENA also urged the Government to double its 2030 hydrogen production target from 5GW to 10GW, to ensure that as much hydrogen as possible is produced domestically.
David Smith, Chief Executive of the Energy Networks Association, said: “Whether it be heating our homes, powering our businesses or generating cleaner electricity, hydrogen will help drive up our energy security, while driving down our carbon emissions – and Britain’s gas grid companies are ready to get on with the job of delivering that.
“This plan sets out the changes needed to deliver cleaner, more secure energy supplies for all. What’s key is that the Government does its bit too by lifting its target for homegrown hydrogen production this decade. Doing that today will help gas grid companies deliver for tomorrow.”
ENA estimated that blending 20 percent hydrogen into the gas grid could slash carbon emissions by the equivalent of 2.5 million cars a year, without making any changes to people’s cookers, boilers or heating systems.
Many proponents of hydrogen argue that it is a much better alternative to heating than installing heat pumps, which run on electricity and generally have a higher upfront cost.
However, MPs on the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee slammed this suggestion for being unrealistic, warning that hydrogen is “not a panacea” for cutting carbon emissions.
In their summary last month, they said: “It would be unwise to assume that hydrogen can make a very large contribution to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term.”
They warned that to use hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels, the UK’s entire energy system would require a “significant investment” in the networks and infrastructure needed to distribute it around the country.
One example given was that if hydrogen were to completely or substantially replace gas in domestic heating systems, a “massive and costly programme” of replacing boilers, meters and network infrastructure would likely be required.
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While the authors warned that “it seems likely that any future use of hydrogen will be limited rather than universal”, they noted that hydrogen could have some suitable applications.
These include industries that are harder to electrify, such as some parts of the rail network; in uses that do not require the creation of an extensive refuelling network—such as local bus services operating out of a fixed number of depots.
After highlighting some more uses in the energy storage and industrial sectors, the MPs said: “This limited—rather than universal—use of hydrogen should inform Government decisions.
“For example, we disagree with the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that the Government should mandate new domestic boilers to be hydrogen-ready from 2025.
“In the words of one of the witnesses to our inquiry, hydrogen is likely to be a ‘big niche’ where it will play a major role in certain sectors of the economy, and be a ‘huge growth story’ over the next 30 years, but ‘it will not be everything’.”
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