Hydrogen and wind power are UK’s future

Renewable hydrogen has a key role to play in the UK’s successful transition from fossil fuels to renewables, alongside a huge expansion of wind energy and other clean power sources, according to a new report published today by RenewableUK.

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

The study highlights the central role for green hydrogen – hydrogen produced using renewable electricity – as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels like gas or petroleum.

The UK’s mix of high renewable energy capacity and strong climate change policies mean that renewable hydrogen is likely to become cost competitive in the UK faster than in other parts of the world. Renewable hydrogen can be used instead of gas in factories – in heavy industries like steel-making - where progress on decarbonisation has been slow to date, as well as heating boilers in homes. 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 works, and in hydrogen fuel cells for heavy good vehicles and shipping. 

Additional growth of onshore wind to 26GW by 2030 means the UK’s overall wind capacity can grow to 66GW by the end of this decade, providing more than half the UK’s power. RenewableUK’s new modelling in the report shows that, working with Government to ensure that right policies in place, the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry can attract £54bn in private investment to quadruple capacity to 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 which will provide more than one-third of our electricity, and grow further to 90GW by 2050.

Despite the short-term impacts of COVID-19 on energy use, RenewableUK expects low cost renewable power to grow rapidly in the next ten years to meet new demand from electric vehicles, low carbon heating and renewable hydrogen. By 2050, RenewableUK predicts renewables could be providing over three quarters (76 per cent) of the UK’s power needs.

RenewableUK’s chief economist Marina Valls, who wrote the report, said “We’re entering an era of rapid technological change as we move closer towards total decarbonisation, 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. Renewable energy sources are penetrating the global energy markets faster than anyone expected, and generating power cheaper than fossil fuels sooner than anyone predicted”.

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