HOT|COOL MAGAZINE SPECIAL COLLECTION 1/2022

DISTRICT HEATING CAN HELP UNLOCK THE HYDROGEN ECONOMY IN THE UK – FOR THE BENEFIT OF EVERYONE INVOLVED

By Jacob Byskov Kristensen, Energy Counsellor, Embassy of Denmark, UK

the UK government’s Hydrogen Strategy suggests that 250 – 460 TWh of hydrogen could be needed by 2050, making up 20 – 35% of the UK’s final energy demand. A key reason for these high estimates is that the UK, unlike many other coun- tries, considers hydrogen as a possible pathway to decarbon- isation of the heating sector, including domestic buildings. In the UK, domestic heating is often considered a “hard-to-de- carbonise” sector alongside heavy transport and industry. Whether heating of households with hydrogen – blended or not – is a good idea, is still a highly contentious policy topic. In any case, current government policy is such that hydrogen looks set to occupy a cornerstone position in the Net Zero pathway for UK industrial and transport decarbonisation. This in turn means it’s likely that huge volumes of hydrogen will be produced on land, and potentially near areas of high heat demand. What seems to be less well-known, is that like other energy conversion processes the production of hydrogen itself gener- ates heat - potentially a lot of it in the case of the UK. By default, this heat is considered a by-product with no immediate use, which will therefore be vented off into the surrounding envi- ronment, leaking substantial cost and potential carbon savings from the hydrogen production process. For some of the most well-known and established green hydrogen production tech- nologies, using electrolysers, as much as 30% of the input ener- gy can end up as waste heat. Even blue hydrogen production

technologies (often significant net consumers of heat) yield significant waste heat through their its auxiliary processes. This is especially the case where blue hydrogen production – e.g., steam methane reformation – is combined with carbon cap- ture technologies. All these observations beg the fundamental question; why not use this (wasted) heat for heating purposes – increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production, creating new revenue for hydrogen producers, and freeing up valuable hydrogen for other hard to decarbonise sectors? Decarbonisation of space heating in the UK - has the electrification vs. hydrogen debate slowed down the development of district heating networks? Decarbonisation of heating systems is, by most, considered to be the biggest immediate policy challenge that the UK faces to achieve its Net Zero targets. In 2019, heating of buildings accounted for 23% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Same year, the UK Climate Change Commission estimated that less than 5% of the UK’s homes are heated from low-carbon sources – with more than 85% of households heated with natural gas. Awareness of this challenge is nothing new. In 2008, the UK be- came the first major economy to legislate on climate change – legislation that today includes a binding national Net Zero target by 2050. But while these ambitions have helped yield a transition to low carbon energy sources, such as wind, in the

Made with FlippingBook Annual report maker