U.K. presents plan for hydrogen economy

August 27, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

The U.K. government last week announced the release of its UK Hydrogen Strategy, predicting thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in investment and export opportunities over the coming decades via the creation of a low-carbon hydrogen sector in Britain.

A flourishing, U.K.-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900 million (about $1.2 billion) and create over 9,000 high-quality jobs by 2030, according to the government, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to £13 billion (about $18 billion) by 2050.

Published August 17, the 121-page strategy builds on commitments laid out in last year’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which included a section on driving the growth of low-carbon hydrogen. The strategy sets out the foundation for how the government will work with industry to meet the Ten Point Plan’s goal of 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030—the equivalent, notes the government, of replacing natural gas in powering around 3 million U.K. homes per year, as well as powering transport and businesses, particularly heavy industry.

Enter nuclear: To reach the 5-GW goal, the government will support both electrolytic and CCUS (carbon capture, usage, and storage)-enabled hydrogen production. “This twin-track approach,” the strategy states, “has already underpinned successful innovation through our Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply Competition, which set out to support development and cost reduction of a wide range of world-leading technologies. This has supported projects including methane reformers with higher carbon capture rates, scaling up of modules and support for the automated manufacture of electrolyzers, and work to evidence the feasibility of electrolysis from low-carbon nuclear.”

Reacting to the strategy’s release, Fiona Rayment, chief science and technology officer at the U.K. National Nuclear Laboratory, commented, “Achieving net zero by 2050 means we need to decarbonize our entire energy system, not just in terms of electricity but through heat and hydrogen, too. While nuclear energy is already the U.K.’s single largest source of clean electricity, we know that current and advanced nuclear technologies hold considerable potential for generating zero-carbon hydrogen affordably and at the scale required. … We are pleased to see the role of nuclear reflected in the creation of a low- and zero-carbon hydrogen economy for the U.K. We fully support the government’s ambitions for achieving this and for building credible pathways to net zero. As the U.K.’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, we are clear that nuclear can and must play a pivotal role in enabling this.”

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