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Renewable hydrogen and wind are future of UK’s energy system

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A new study released by RenewableUK, sees renewable hydrogen as a key role in the successful transition from fossil fuels to renewables, alongside a significant expansion of wind energy and other clean power sources.

‘Powering the Future: RenewableUK’s Vision of the Transition’ sets out a wide-ranging vision of how the UK’s energy system is going to transform between now and 2050, the target date for the Government to achieve net zero emissions.

Despite Covid-19’s short-term influence on energy consumption, RenewableUK expects low-cost renewable energy to expand steadily over the next ten years to meet rising demand from electric vehicles, low-carbon heating and renewable hydrogen.

By 2050, RenewableUK estimates that renewables will provide more than three-quarters (76 percent) of UK power requirements.

The study highlights the huge potential for green hydrogen –hydrogen that is produced using renewable electricity –as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels such as gas or petroleum.

The United Kingdom’s mix of high renewable energy capacity and strong climate change policies means that renewable hydrogen is likely to become faster cost-competitive in the UK than elsewhere in the world.

Renewable hydrogen can be used in factories –in heavy industries such as steel-making–where decarbonization progress has been slow to date, as well as in household heating boilers.

Green hydrogen from renewables can also be used to power a turbine in the same way as a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant currently operates, and in hydrogen fuel cells for heavy good vehicles and shipping.

A net zero-emission energy system would see a six-fold rise in low-cost wind energy production to over 120GW by 2050, attracting tens of billions of investments alongside other renewable sources such as solar and floating wind and marine energy.

In addition to these power sources, RenewableUK expects an exponential increase in energy storage as batteries and other forms of storage scale to ensure that power supplies stay in balance at all times.

The report envisages major improvements in the way consumers use the energy system, with renewable electricity rather than fossil fuels used to power transportation and heating through electric vehicles, solar technology, heat pumps and other sources.

As well as taking advantage of the affordable renewable energy, customers would have opportunities to minimize energy costs by, for example, selling power stored in batteries or EVs to the grid when it is most needed and purchasing electricity when it is cheaper.

This flexibility will be a key characteristic of UK’s electricity system, and of energy companies’ business models, in the transition to net zero.

The report presents a set of policy proposals to the Government to deliver the right markets and strategies to ensure low-cost energy, decarbonization, and energy security.

These include holding annual auctions for contracts for largescale renewable generators to provide low-cost power, rather than every two years, and targeting support specifically at innovative technologies which are not yet able to compete with more established power sources in these auctions.

This is an incredibly exciting time for the energy sector. We’re entering an era of rapid technological change as we move closer towards total decarbonization, using an even wider range of technologies such as renewable hydrogen alongside more wind, solar, battery storage and – crucially –  people participating far more pro-actively in the way our modern energy system operates, making it more flexible.

Our members are delivering innovative, low-cost, practical solutions in the battle against climate change which remains a long-term threat to our way of life. Renewable energy sources are penetrating the global energy markets faster than anyone expected, and generating power cheaper than fossil fuels sooner than anyone predicted.

In the world we are trying to build, the transition to a modern energy system ultimately means two things: reduced emissions and reduced energy bills for households

Marina Valls, chief economist RenewableUK.

RenewableUK’s new modeling in the report shows that the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry will attract £54 billion in private investment to quadruple capacity to 40GW by 2030, supplying more than one-third of UK’s electricity, and growing further to 90GW by 2050.

Additional onshore wind growth to 26GW by 2030 means the total UK wind capacity will rise to 66GW by the end of this decade, generating over half the UK’s electricity.

In order to meet the increasing demand for electricity and the net zero emission goal by 2050, the UK’s wind power capacity will increase from 22GW at present to 126GW by 2050.

Nedim Husomanovic

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