The UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy is here, but we have to start work now to deliver its benefits
By Steve Scrimshaw, VP Siemens Energy UK & Ireland
This month, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, led by Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, unveiled its roadmap for a world-leading hydrogen economy. The UK’s first ever Hydrogen Strategy lays out the Government’s plan to unlock £4 billion in investment to kick start world-leading hydrogen economy and support over 9,000 UK jobs by 2030.
I’m pleased to see that the strategy suggests hydrogen could cover 20-35% of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050, providing a clean alternative to oil and gas in energy-intensive industries, power, and transport.
This strategy sets the foundation for how the UK Government will work with businesses like Siemens Energy, and the wider industry, to meet its ambition for five gigawatts of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – the equivalent of replacing natural gas in powering around three million UK homes each year as well as powering transport and businesses, particularly heavy industry.
I welcome the publication of this hydrogen strategy. It’s a much-needed step forward for the country and the energy industry and sets a clear roadmap for growth of this important sector. But in order to make the hydrogen strategy a reality, it’s vital that the industry now sees a tangible pipeline of hydrogen projects come to life.
Not only will this action start the UK on the path to deep decarbonisation across many sectors, but it will also provide certainty to the supply chain that the UK is a good place to invest. To get there, I believe we need to start hydrogen projects now, and Siemens Energy is already at the forefront of projects that will help the UK hit these targets.
We need action to keep up the pace of change
As a fuel, hydrogen offers a versatile, clean, and flexible energy solution suitable for the energy transition, which will be valuable in helping the UK to achieve net-zero by 2050 thanks to its use in many sectors. But how can Siemens Energy and the wider industry help the Government reach that target?
In a few years’ time we should see the first homes with 100% hydrogen power for heating and electricity and hydrogen buses in our cities. By 2027, there will be the first clusters of blue hydrogen production and hydrogen trains on our tracks and electrolyzers in offshore wind turbines able to directly produce green hydrogen.
In 2030, we aim to be part of the gigawatt scale hydrogen production needed to power the sector and we hope to see some heavy industries running on hydrogen by 2035, reducing carbon emissions by millions of tonnes of CO2 per year.
It's estimated that the UK will need to produce somewhere between 200-500 terawatt hours of hydrogen every year by 2050 in order to reach the net zero target. To achieve that, the UK must build several hundred gigawatts of hydrogen production capacity. There are two ways of making low carbon hydrogen, often called ‘blue’ and ‘green’, and our technology supports both.
Building the hydrogen roadmap
Blue hydrogen is made from ‘hydrocarbon’ fuels like natural gas, separating the hydrogen and permanently burying the carbon, a process known as carbon capture use and storage (CCUS). Blue hydrogen production is part of the Government’s strategy to decarbonise Britain’s industrial clusters by creating large scale CCUS networks. The first of two clusters are due to come on stream mid-decade, followed by two more clusters before the end of the decade.
That means Siemens Energy will help the industry to reach gigawatt scale blue hydrogen production by around 2030, at the same time we start to see the first full scale 100% hydrogen-fuelled power stations, technology we are already developing.
Green hydrogen is produced using electrolysis to separate water (H2O) into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen powered by renewable energy. Today our electrolysers are a few megawatts in size but that’s increasing rapidly, so green hydrogen production can also reach gigawatt scale before 2030.
To achieve gigawatt scale with green hydrogen, we’ll need a huge amount of renewable electricity. The good news is the UK has plenty of low-cost offshore wind resource, in fact, the UK already has plans for 40 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, so we certainly have the wind power to develop green hydrogen.
We must start now
I believe the UK hydrogen strategy is a good beginning to push the industry and the country in the direction of a hydrogen economy, and a net zero world. But clearly, in order to build this industry at scale by 2050, the UK must begin building a pipeline of hydrogen projects today that will support investment in the skills and the supply chain. That needs the support of the energy industry, and businesses like ours.
In thirty years, hydrogen will power our homes, our transport, our industry, and our cities. But hydrogen isn’t just the fuel of the future – it’s the fuel of the present. To get there, we have to accelerate the power of hydrogen now – and we have to start today. I am proud that Siemens Energy is setting the roadmap to deliver a net zero world, backed by hydrogen power and I trust that the hydrogen strategy is the first step on the UK’s journey to get there.