EDF has been looking for ways to increase profitability and improve the reputation of its projects in the UK. Hydrogen is seen as an opportunity to increase the value of the electricity produced in the nuclear power plant. The French company intends to use some of the power from the second and equally expensive plant, Sizewell C, for electrolysis. The modular nature of the electrolyzers means that they could also be used for Hinkley Point C. EDF points at the advantage nuclear has over solar and wind which are intermittent. Nuclear power plants can run constantly and, therefore, are reliable sources. Also, renewables can have a destabilizing effect on wholesale prices. EDF intends to use the excess power of its facility during periods of overproduction in the system to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. However, analysts are warning that the economics of the proposal don’t add up. The IEA’s ‘the future of hydrogen’ report in 2019 shows that the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) is strongly dependent on the number of hours it runs. Hydrogen could be produced with LCOH of more than $4 per kg if the electrolyzer would be running for 500 hours/year. That would drop to $0.50/kg if it was used for 8,000 hours/year. According to Michael Liebreich, founder of BloombergNEF, “the approach needs to be exactly the opposite: have nuclear running 24/7 supplying processes that require 24/7 power. The only time that you change that is when there’s no wind or solar: then you dial down the processes and switch the nuclear power to keeping the lights on.” Furthermore, the cost of offshore wind power has already decreased significantly over the past decade. The UK’s latest wind farms have agreed on strike prices of around £40/MWh. And this price is expected to decrease even further in the next decades. However, the intermittent nature of renewables does increase the overall costs to run the power system through additional flexibility and infrastructure needs.
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