The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has called on the UK government to support investment into technology that would enable excess electricity to be stored in the gas grid in the form of hydrogen.
The report: ‘Energy from Gas: Taking a Whole System Approach’, calls for more support for power to gas technology, which is when excess electricity on the National Grid, from either high level renewable generation or low demand, is used to create hydrogen through electrolysis.
Investment in this area could, it claims, help overcome the intermittency challenges associated with wind and solar energy: one of the key barriers to increasing the UK’s renewable capacity.
The UK gas grid has the potential to store excess electricity in the form of hydrogen, for a greater amount of time than some other forms of energy storage, such as batteries.
This hydrogen can then be used in all areas of the energy system producing low emissions fuel for transport, reducing the CO2 emissions from the heating system, reused to generate electricity as well as a greener feedstock for industries such as ammonia and plastics production.
This could present the country with a chance to be a world leader in power-to-gas and hydrogen technology
Making a series of recommendations on how power to gas technology could be used to transform the UK energy system the report calls on the government to create an industrial forum that brings together the nuclear, renewable power and gas sectors to promote the generation and storage of hydrogen for use across the UK energy system. It also recommends that government should work with the gas industry to promote the use of up to 20 per cent hydrogen in the gas distribution network including change in pipes and materials by 2023.
Finally, it suggests that government commissions a comprehensive comparative study of the long-term sustainability of materials used to create lithium ion EV batteries versus power-to-gas/gas systems and fuel cells, to identify appropriate technology and life cycle approach.
The lead author of the report, and head of Eengineering at the IMechE Dr Jenifer Baxter said: “Government and industry need to step up efforts to provide funding programmes and demonstration sites to encourage the greater use of hydrogen as energy storage. The UK has a strong track record of being at the cutting edge of new energy developments, and this could present the country with a chance to be a world leader in power-to-gas and hydrogen technology.”