Hydrogen's value in the energy system (HYVE)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Bartlett Sch of Env, Energy & Resources

Abstract

This project will assess the potential value of hydrogen to the UK as part of a transition to a low carbon economy. It will assess the potential demand for and value of hydrogen in different markets across the energy system and will analyse the supply chain required to produce and deliver that hydrogen, including the supply of hydrogen from using electrolysers for load balancing in the UK electricity system with a high penetration of renewable electricity.

In the short-term, hydrogen electrolysers can support electricity system load balancing as the proportion of intermittent renewables increases. The Universities of Edinburgh and Reading have led efforts to characterise the UK wind power resource and to understand how new developments can be incorporated into the UK electricity system. This project will extend the models developed at these institutions to assess the indirect value of hydrogen in supporting a high penetration of renewable electricity by avoiding electricity network reinforcement. It will also link these models with the UK energy system model at UCL (UK TIMES) to assess the direct value of electrolysed hydrogen to companies, if the hydrogen is used in the gas network (power-to-gas), as an industrial feedstock, as a transport fuel or for large-scale storage as part of the electricity system. The models will identify the most appropriate locations for electrolysis deployment and the timescales on which they should be deployed.

In the medium-term, the most important use of hydrogen is likely to be in the transport sector. UCL has recently examined how a hydrogen supply chain might develop across the UK using a new spatially-explicit infrastructure planning model called SHIPMod. This project will add a number of new features to this model including hydrogen pipelines and finer temporal disaggregation to link with the electrolysis parts of the network models developed at Edinburgh. It will be used to assess the value of hydrogen supply infrastructure and will identify the optimum deployment of infrastructure across the UK.

In the longer term, hydrogen is a zero-carbon option to replace natural gas for heat generation. UCL have examined the potential for converting the natural gas networks to use hydrogen and to examine the long-term prospects for micro-CHP to replace boilers. This project will build on this research with the aims of: (i) assessing the value of hydrogen to the UK for heat provision; (ii) understanding the impact of hydrogen on the gas distribution networks; and, (iii) examining how using hydrogen for heat as well as transport would impact the development of a hydrogen supply infrastructure.

Hydrogen infrastructure represents a risky investment in the early stages of a transition because of the highly uncertain future uptake of hydrogen vehicles. It is important to factor the cost of this risk into the value of hydrogen. We will use a mixture of real options and stochastic programming analysis, using the UK TIMES energy system model and the SHIPMod infrastructure planning model, to account for and manage risk in different scenarios (including using hydrogen only for transport or using it for both transport and heat). Hence we will identify scenarios with lower investment risk and we will identify policies that will reduce these risks and facilitate the development of a hydrogen economy.

This project will build on existing research projects, including using models developed by the EPSRC H2FC Supergen Hub and the EPSRC Adaptation and Resilience in Energy Systems (ARIES) project. Funding for hydrogen research in the UK is currently almost exclusively focused on technology development and this project will fill an important gap in the funding landscape by taking a whole systems approach to understanding the potential role of hydrogen in future UK low-carbon energy system configurations.

Planned Impact

Hydrogen has the potential to be a critical enabler for the UK's renewable energy plans as an energy storage medium and the government has identified hydrogen electrolysis as a key technology to deal with intermittency. The government will be able to use the insights and the models that we create as evidence to inform policy decisions about the electricity network, in particular policies that minimise energy costs, maximise decarbonisation and avoid unintended consequences of stranded technologies. Electricity supply companies will be able to use the tools that this project creates to inform investment decisions, which is why National Grid, SSE and SGN, who between them own the UK electricity and gas transmission networks as well as several distribution networks, are partners of this project. Electricity network reinforcement is expensive and unpopular with the UK public and this project could lead to fewer new power lines and a more secure electricity supply, which could also improve the public opinion of renewables and accelerate roll-out of low-carbon technologies.

H2Mobility, a consortium of the UK government and industrial partners, has stated that commercial hydrogen-powered vehicles will be introduced in suitable markets from 2015 and that prompt action is important to ensure that the potential economic and carbon benefits of hydrogen transport are realised within the UK. Investments into supply infrastructure are currently difficult to justify because the overall value of hydrogen to the UK, and to the many companies in the supply chain, is opaque, but hydrogen vehicles cannot be used without these investments. This project will take a whole systems approach to hydrogen and will value hydrogen as an integral part of the wider UK energy system. The energy systems and spatially-explicit infrastructure planning models that we develop will account for safety regulations and other considerations relating to infrastructure development, and will thus be able to produce practical and viable plans for hydrogen infrastructure investments with demonstrable value across the hydrogen supply chain. Air Products, a project partner and a member of H2Mobility, will help us to ensure that our outputs address these investment issues.

One issue for companies is that the demand for hydrogen in future scenarios varies substantially depending on the long-term costs of resources and whether cost reductions in hydrogen vehicle components and supply infrastructure are achieved. The management of uncertainty is a key factor for the development of hydrogen but it has not previously been investigated in whole energy system studies. This project will assess the impact of these uncertainties on investment costs and will develop strategies to reduce these uncertainties and share the risk across the hydrogen supply chain. It will provide the evidence that companies need to inform hydrogen investment decisions.

Heating produces a third of UK CO2 emissions and decarbonising heat is a key challenge. In its recently-published Heat Strategy, a key uncertainty identified by the government is the role of hydrogen in meeting the UK low-carbon and security of supply objectives. This project will assess the role of hydrogen and will also enhance our understanding of the potential for converting the gas distribution networks to deliver hydrogen, which is of great interest to the network owners because they could otherwise be decommissioned.

UK consumers are becoming more engaged in the operation of the energy system and already interact with mechanisms such as feed-in tariffs and the renewable heat initiative. Consumers are aware of the general concerns around sustainability of road transport and there has been much interest in alternative fuel vehicles for reducing both carbon and NOx emissions. We will assess the potential value of hydrogen for these purposes and will communicate our findings to the public through the project website.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The HYVE project has developed three sophisticated models to help us understand the value of hydrogen to a UK low-carbon economy.

Power-to-gas is viewed as a method to support the integration of variable renewables (e.g. wind; solar) into the electricity system. We have developed a sophisticated electricity dispatch/network model that shows: (i) power-to-gas could make an important contribution to electricity system balancing if renewables account for more than 60% of total generation; (ii) total hydrogen production from power-to-gas could only meet a small proportion of total UK hydrogen demand if hydrogen were adopted for heating and transport; and, (iii) building small electrolysers at refuelling stations also offers an opportunity to balance local excess renewables generation in distribution networks.

Hydrogen compression and purity for different applications are key issues that have previously received little attention. We have comprehensively reviewed both issues and added their impacts to our models for the first time.

We have developed a new version of the UK TIMES energy system model with a much more sophisticated representation of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies than was previously possible. UK TIMES was used by BEIS to underpin their Clean Growth Strategy, published in 2017, and one of the three principal scenarios examined hydrogen.

We have greatly improved the SHIPMod spatial infrastructure planning model. We have introduced a sophisticated representation of hydrogen pipelines into the model, in conjunction with advice from Northern Gas Networks. With this and other data and model improvements, it now produces plausible transition pathways.

We have used these models to examine the role of hydrogen in a range of future UK low-carbon scenarios.
Exploitation Route These models are likely to underpin future assessments of the potential long-term benefits of hydrogen to the UK energy system, for example using hydrogen for heating. The hydrogen compression and purity requirements will be of interest to a number of people in academia.

BEIS and the Committee on Climate Change are likely to use the insights from this project to inform their long-term scenario modelling of the UK energy system.
Sectors Energy

 
Description . Insights from hydrogen modelling in the UK TIMES model was used to underpin the Committee on Climate Change report "Scenarios for deployment of hydrogen in meeting carbon budgets and the 2050 target", which contributed to their Fifth Carbon Budget advice.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Committee on Climate Change research findings on gas networks futures and regulation
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description EPSRC DTP Studentship Competition 2017 at the University of Reading
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description Flexible Fund - H2FC White Paper on economic implications
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Description Flexible Fund - H2FC White Paper on energy systems
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Description Flexible Fund - H2FC White Paper on security
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 04/2017
 
Description Scenarios for deployment of hydrogen in contributing to meeting carbon budgets and the 2050 target
Amount £25,725 (GBP)
Organisation Committee on Climate Change (CCC) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 12/2015
 
Description Work with DECC to improve hydrogen representation in the UK TIMES energy system model 
Organisation Department of Energy and Climate Change
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed improvements to the representation of hydrogen production technologies in the UK TIMES energy system model.
Collaborator Contribution DECC have contributed questions about the representation of hydrogen in the existing model and advice on the use of it for policy analysis.
Impact Forthcoming.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Article in "Energy Focus" magazine about hydrogen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Paul Dodds published an article with Nigel Holmes (SHFCA Chief Executive and HYVE board member) in the Energy Industries Council "Energy Focus" magazine, about the move to a hydrogen economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.the-eic.com/Publications/EnergyFocus
 
Description Article in The Engineer magazine about hydrogen and fuel cells 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paul Dodds was interviewed for an article on hydrogen and fuel cells in The Engineer magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Carbon Connect Advisory Board on low-carbon gas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Carbon Connect are holding an inquiry and producing a report about low-carbon gas, particularly hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas in heating. This inquiry is targeted at parliamentarians and is chaired by a cross-party group of three MPs. Paul Dodds is a member of the inquiry Advisory Board and has presented Hub and HYVE research to the Board.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description DECC Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact DECC set up the Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group in order to define a standard for green hydrogen in the UK, to facilitate the introduction of hydrogen technologies. It was set up in response to the H2FC Hub White Paper on the potential for hydrogen and fuel cells to contribute to low-carbon heat provision, which recommended the development of a standard as a key step. The H2FC Hub is represented on the Working Group through Dr Paul Dodds (UCL), and has used its flexible fund to support a small research study that is providing evidence to the Working Group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
 
Description Invited presentation to a PRASEG/ENA event on the future of natural gas, for UK parliamentarians 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited talk to the PRASEG (All-Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group) in Whitehall about the future of natural gas in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited talk on hydrogen to the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact An invited talk on "The role of hydrogen in energy flexibility, availability, security, and decarbonisation" to a session of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) that examined the future potential of hydrogen energy systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Keynote lecture on hydrogen in shipping at the Port of Antwerp 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Paul Ekins gave a lecture, jointly written with Paul Dodds, on the challenges and opportunities related to the transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy. It took place at the Port of Antwerp on 28 March 2019. There was a specific focus on shipping. The lecture was followed by a tour of two novel low-carbon ships.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paul Dodds appointed Alternate UK Representative to IEA Hydrogen 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Paul Dodds was appointed the Alternate UK Delegate to IEA Hydrogen by BEIS. His role involves him increasing the involvement of the UK academic and industrial community in IEA Hydrogen research by starting new tasks of strategic interest to the UK community and by building a UK network of interested parties. He organised a UK workshop in October 2017, attended an IEA Hydrogen meeting in December 2017. He is exploring the benefits of up to three new tasks and is organising another IEA Hydrogen meeting in the UK in mid-2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://ieahydrogen.org/
 
Description Presentation on low-carbon transport to the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Bournemouth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I gave an invited presentation on low-carbon transport at a Green LibDems fringe event at the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Bournemouth. The audience included a mix of party members and politicians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to the European Parliament on hydrogen energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament held a workshop on hydrogen on 19 February 2019. Paul Dodds presented on "The role of hydrogen in energy flexibility, availability, security, and decarbonisation", using insights from the HYVE project and several H2FC Supergen Hub projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/itre/events-workshops.html?id=20190211WKS02201
 
Description Seminar to civil servants from the UK Department for Transport about hydrogen energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Paul Dodds held a 2-hour seminar and discussion session on hydrogen energy with around 30 civil servants from the UK Department for Hydrogen, on 8 November 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk to 6th form pupils on hydrogen energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Paul Dodds gave a UCL Science Centre Lecture to 6th form pupils on hydrogen energy. It took place for 1 hour, at UCL, on 19 October 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018