Tom Baxter: Energy Voice, and numerous other media outlets, covered the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Policy Statement issued on the 21st December. The policy statement was informed by the Scottish hydrogen: assessment report issued on the same day. Reviewing the assessment report it is clear that the policy has yet to be verified by evidence in some very important areas. Hence it is a policy in progress. The hydrogen assessment accepts that battery electric passenger cars and light vans is the preferred option. Hence hydrogen is tackling the smaller, but important, area of heavy haulage and shipping. Trains are only 1% of UK GHG emissions and the unelectrified part of the Scottish rail network is very minor with respect to emissions and could be served by drop-in bio-fuels. The assessment makes no recognition of future battery developments. Solid state and other advances will see battery energy density greatly improve thereby making inroads into heavy haulage. Indeed, it is already happening as evidenced by Scania. Clearly the Scottish Government is not yet convinced that hydrogen is a natural gas network replacement for heating. The UK’s Climate Change Committee has already made that decision in its Balanced Net Zero Pathway. Their recent report states that ‘By 2050 all heat demand is met by low-carbon sources of which 52% is heat pumps, 42% is district heat, 5% is hydrogen boilers and around 1% new direct electric.’ Hence, little place for hydrogen for space heating. I’m convinced the Scottish Government will come round to that same conclusion when it complete its evidence base. Steam is used extensively in industry as a heating medium with the steam generated by burning natural gas. Compared to hydrogen combustion, steam can be generated much more efficiently using industrial heat pumps as is concluded by the US Department of Energy. Very high temperatures may be an application for hydrogen, or when a reducing agent is required, but these are limited uses. Clearly there remain significant uncertainties in key areas. That begs the question why issue a policy statement when there is so much remaining to be decided?
Energy Voice 24th Dec 2020 read more »