Doug Parr: How is UK government continuing to justify continued emphasis on nuclear power development when the cost of renewables has fallen so far? The answer is about the weather – government will point out (although this will not be a shock to most people, or renewables energy experts) that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. In other words, what can manage the gaps in electricity supply when there isn’t enough solar or wind power? We can max out on electrical connection to other countries, demand response and batteries and there’s still a gap. So to fill that ‘gap’ we need some form of long term storage for renewable power. Enter hydrogen as the storage fuel that could fill the gap. Hydrogen produced from renewable power (known commonly as ‘green hydrogen’) is producing a lot of excitement in lots of countries. Notably Germany is planning €7bn spending to expand it, Sweden have plans to use green hydrogen for steel production rather than power system balancing, there are even massive plans in Australia as it seeks to diversify from fossil fuels, and major plans from the EU. In 3 of the 5 CCC scenarios no more nuclear capacity is required other than that under construction or already built. Obviously, it is possible to imagine scenarios with less nuclear, but that’s what UK government’s official adviser says. However, that’s not the perspective of UK government, as informed by their Modelling 2050 study. The Modelling 2050 study seems weighted against the uptake of hydrogen to provide this ‘balancing’ service to the grid. The viability of green hydrogen to contribute to a very high renewables system is constrained by 2 assumptions of only 20TWh being available in 2050, and the cost being £1.2/kg in 2020 prices (or $1.68/kg at today’s exchange rate) These 2 critical assumptions contrast sharply with Climate Change Committee where their central ‘balanced pathway’ scenario reaches nearly 100TWh by 2050, with other scenarios going higher still.
100% Renewables 27th March 2021 read more »