MPs seek clarity on hydrogen’s role

Hydrogen is not a panacea for reaching the net zero emissions target by 2050, but it can grow to become “a big niche” fuel in particular sectors and applications, claims a new report.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee argues that hydrogen will likely have a “specific but limited” role in decarbonising sectors - for example, where electrification is not possible, and as a means of storing energy.

MPs have urged Government to give industry more clarity over how and when it will make decisions about the role of hydrogen in the UK economy.

The main issues are the massive investment required to create, store and transport hydrogen, and the energy losses involved - even if it is ‘green’ hydrogen made using wind or solar power.

The committee asks the Government to outline a series of ‘decision points’ between now and 2050, setting out in practical terms the role of hydrogen in the UK’s future energy system.

This should include specifying what scientific and technological progress needs to be made at each stage, such as requirements for the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to make blue hydrogen economic, and the level of renewable generation that would lead to surplus power which could be used to produce green hydrogen.

The committee also concludes that hydrogen is not likely to be practically or economically viable in the short and medium term for heating homes or fuelling cars, due to the significant cost, and the technological and infrastructure challenges.

Currently, hydrogen is overwhelmingly produced from fossil-fuel intensive processes.

Efficient production of low-carbon ‘green’ hydrogen relies on abundant cheap renewable electricity, while so-called ‘blue’ hydrogen requires CCS, which is not deployed at the large scale required to make a material contribution to emissions reductions.

Given this, the committee says it is “unwise” to assume hydrogen can make a large contribution to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions in the short and medium term.

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