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The potential for hydrogen is emerging
There is a range of stakeholders across the energy landscape looking at hydrogen through a new lens. Why the fuss? Simply put, hydrogen has the potential to help us solve some of the most pressing energy challenges in the decades to come. However, the timeline is important, therefore ‘decades’ is the key word here, as it is unlikely that pure hydrogen will be flowing through the gas mains or into your car in the next few months or even the next few years. But there is huge potential. Hydrogen is an energy vector that can be used for a range of heat, transport and power generation applications. See Cate Lyon’s blog for more on hydrogen and its relation to domestic heat here. The big question is where can it best be used?
But where best to use your hydrogen? Our modelling suggests putting it in your fleet.
We have built a basic techno-economic model to help us assess the situation. Our research, corroborated by the findings of others, indicates that prevailing techno-economic conditions in the UK mean the highest value use case for hydrogen is in a vehicle fleet. The larger and heavier (think vans, buses, lorries and rubbish/garbage trucks) the vehicle fleet the better.
We have also determined the need to keep the number of hours the electrolyser is operational per year as high as possible (and at the very least 2,500 hours per year) to drive down the levelised cost of hydrogen produced. This is something that ought to be balanced with the availability of excess renewable electricity – in order to produce the lowest cost low carbon hydrogen. This is not to say that hydrogen is not a great way to provide low carbon heating as well. As the hydrogen sector matures and subsidies are likely introduced the current highest value application of hydrogen could change in the decades to come.
A range of hydrogen-related transport vehicles are currently under development.
Why are distribution network operators interested in hydrogen?
Hydrogen is of interest to many energy system stakeholders. Electricity distribution network operators (DNOs) – the folk that make sure electricity can reliably get from the power station to your home – are just one such group that hydrogen may be of relevance to. A number of DNOs across the UK currently have to occasionally curtail renewable output since they don’t always have the grid capacity to move the electricity from solar and wind farms to places where the electricity can be used. There may be potential for DNOs to make use of this curtailed low carbon energy to produce hydrogen using electrolysers. Delta-ee is currently helping Western Power Distribution (WPD), a DNO that covers most of Wales and the Midlands, explore the viability of this option.
In theory, electrolysers could help if deployed on parts of the electricity network where there are constraints by acting as dynamic loads to soak up excess renewable energy. They would then convert the otherwise to be wasted electricity into useful hydrogen.
The project we are doing for WPD is called ‘Heat and Fleet’. As the name suggests, the goal is to see if there is a business (or use) case for WPD to use the hydrogen generated from the electrolyser to run a fleet and heat (and power) some of their facilities.
This is a really exciting project that draws on lots of Delta-ee’s new energy expertise. It is great to be working with our valued clients, such as WPD, to explore innovative ways to embrace the energy transition and solve some of the emerging challenges facing the energy sector in the quest to decarbonise.
To find out more about Delta-ee’s bespoke consulting click here or contact me at [email protected] to find out more.
Matthew’s primary role is to provide support to a wide range of consulting projects related to various distributed energy topics: from heat-pumps, to fuels cells, to biomass heat and energy generation. In addition to consultancy work, Matthew is a core part of Delta’s microgrids research team. He is based at Delta Energy and Environment’s new Cambridge office.
Matthew holds an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development (distinction) from the University of Cambridge as well as MSc(Eng) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town. His undergraduate degree was in Chemical Engineering (distinction) also from the University of Cape Town. Matthew is a registered member of the UK Energy Institute and UK Society of Environmental Engineers.
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