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    UK hydrogen strategy 'could go further': Cadent


While it is a 'great first step', the volumes envisaged are conservative and the document has few surprises, the pipeline operator told NGW.

by: William Powell

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UK hydrogen strategy 'could go further': Cadent

The UK government has not come up with any surprises in its £4bn ($5.5bn) hydrogen strategy, and the 2030 target of 5 GW capacity seems low, the chief strategy and regulation officer at the low-pressure network operator Cadent Tony Ballance told NGW August 17. Nevertheless, "it does give clarity to the government's intentions for this important energy vector," he said.

Ballance said it was "a great first step in promoting the use of this green gas," but added "there are opportunities for the UK to go further and faster."

Cadent alone, leading the Hynet project in the northwest of England, expects to have 3.8 GW capacity, and there are several other schemes at St. Fergus and the east coast terminals. The Climate Change Committee has a wide range that starts off with 7 GW.

But a number of key, complementary government strategies, such as heating and buildings, also needed to be published, and they will give more precision to the question of electrons and molecules. This has been awkward for the government as the cost of heat pumps is prohibitive for all but the wealthiest. Perhaps owing to an argument with Conservative members of parliament over the cost, its publication date has slipped. Next year then seems set to be the important one for hydrogen.

Cadent welcomed the plan for distribution networks to carry a blend of hydrogen with methane in a 20:80 ratio, and Ballance hopes to allow for more networks across the country to carry that blend; but not to raise the proportion but wait until a 100% hydrogen network is ready.

He said that it was "super-important" to make an early start with blue hydrogen soon, rather than to wait until there is enough green hydrogen.

"We must not allow the best to be the enemy of the good," he said, as it is "important to decarbonise ... Blue hydrogen will be an important part of energy security."

He dismissed a report that said blue hydrogen was actually bad, saying it included irrelevant assumptions and data, including methane leaks from downstream grids.

He said using hydrogen would need no new technology or behaviour changes from households and it would stimulate  the flow of the necessary millions of pounds of investment into hydrogen production while saving carbon emissions.

But where change is needed is in regulation, he said. While Ofgem's price-control system for gas network operators had become more flexible with the introduction of 're-openers' in between reviews, there are still questions over the best way to encourage investment in the net-zero carbon future. He said Cadent would be contributing to the House of Lords committee that launched an inquiry into Ofgem's role in the summer.

In the meantime, Cadent will continue to work closely with government to turn hydrogen targets into carbon reductions and new jobs, and hope to see the minister’s hydrogen ambitions continue to grow, it said in a statement.

The government's statement announcing the strategy said: "A booming, UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900mn and create over 9,000 high-quality jobs by 2030, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to £13bn by 2050. By 2030, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonising polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, HGV lorries and trains.