Smart electrification supported by improvements in energy efficiency will be the cheapest way to decarbonise heat across Europe, a new study from the European Climate Foundation has found. It says the use of hydrogen should be limited to providing seasonal energy storage and meeting peak power demand, even in countries with colder climates such as the UK. The analysis, conducted by Element Energy and Cambridge Econometrics, explored six different scenarios for creating a zero-carbon energy system across Europe by 2050. The results were extrapolated from modelling of six archetype countries, with Germany being the most analogous to the UK due to its high winds and significant existing gas infrastructure. In half of the scenarios heating is mostly electrified (“High Electrification”), whilst in the other three electrification is more limited and low-carbon gases such as hydrogen meet a substantial proportion of demand (“High Molecules”). Household spending on energy is higher in all but one of the scenarios. It is greatest in the High Molecules scenarios, which would add between €165 and €214 billion to annual costs across Europe in 2050. The change in spending is smaller in the High Electrification scenarios, with one seeing a €23 billion reduction in annual costs by the middle of the century when compared to a continuation of the current policies. In November, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended the adoption of hybrid heating systems combining electric heat pumps and hydrogen boilers as the best way to decarbonise heat in the UK. Under this model, the heat pumps would meet “baseload” demand throughout most of the year, whilst the hydrogen boilers would step in to meet peak demand on the coldest winter days. The CCC said low-carbon hydrogen cannot be produced in large enough quantities to completely replace natural gas and that full electrification is not feasible due to the huge amounts of backup generation that would be needed during periods of high demand.
Utility Week 15th March 2019 read more »