UK utility ramps up innovation investment on green hydrogen 

Wales and West Utilities (WWU) has set out their latest evidence on how innovation on green hydrogen can be used to help to meet the UK Government's net zero target.
UK utility ramps up innovation investment on green hydrogen 

To reach net zero emissions, gas must be replaced with a cleaner energy source that can still meet periods of peak demand and strengthening energy security. Currently, gas keeps the UK running and accounted for just under 40 percent of the energy mix in 2022, in addition to oil at 36 percent, electricity through wind (4 percent) and solar (1 percent). 40 percent of electricity is supplied by the gas network and relies on the network for resilience during periods of high demand.

WWU pursued a range of innovation projects throughout 2022/23 pushing to provide new data and technology that could help accelerate the transition to net zero and transform the UK’s energy system. The utility commenced 19 new projects, funded by a total investment of £2.2 million, including £1.5 million of Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funding.

These projects included a plan for Hyline Cymru, which would see a new dedicated hydrogen pipeline built across South Wales, linking hydrogen production with industrial demand. This infrastructure could allow industrial customers to move to hydrogen as early as 2030, offering a path for decarbonisation and stimulating the hydrogen economy, in turn both protecting and creating new jobs.

WWUs hydrogen for aviation project provided scope on how gas networks can support the decarbonisation of the aviation sector using hydrogen. Aviation currently contributes 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and 7 percent of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

HyRes is a national partnership with universities and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), exploring how hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel technologies can be delivered that are environmentally and economically sustainable. South Cornelly in Wales was chosen to pioneer a community-led energy transition by blending hydrogen into the existing gas network and supplying it to local farmers and industries.

Green hydrogen production is primarily created through electrolysis, which requires green electricity and purified water. NextGen Electrolysis – Wastewater to Green Hydrogen fills a gap in research on how operational barriers could be lowered by using water that is less pure, as well as cost reduction for consumers.

Assessing options for salt cavern storage. Hydrogen can be easily stored and used for when renewable electricity can’t meet demand – for example, when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing. WWU are looking into locations for salt cavern storage as a potential solution to meet this demand.

“The Annual Innovation Report demonstrates the extensive work we’ve been doing to provide invaluable evidence to drive change in the energy sector” said Sian Rowlands, Innovation Manager at Wales & West Utilities. “This year we’ve included a wider view of our portfolio; showing how our projects build on each other and the value they provide in the journey to a net zero energy system. More than ever, we’re inviting innovators to put forward their ideas. Thanks to NIA, almost half (47 percent) of our projects were undertaken in collaboration with other networks. Collaboration sits at the heart of the solution, and at WWU, we’re determined to be a part of that solution.”

38 projects are planned for the rest of 2023 into 2024, ahead of a significant further pipeline. WWU will concentrate on areas that will help to deliver a just energy transition and accelerate decarbonisation for a range of sectors.

For additional information:

Wales and West Utilities (WWU)

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