UK set to witness massive uptake in low-cost green power

A series of initiatives are being rolled out to boost the UK’s renewable energy programme as a report indicated clean energy sources would account for 76% of the nation’s power demand by 2050.

RenewableUK claims that the UK’s net-zero target will spur rapid demand for green hydrogen and attract more than £50bn to an already world-leading offshore wind sector.

Although there has been a slight setback in plans due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK is set to witness a massive uptake in low-cost green power, the report concludes.

The report notes that the UK’s offshore wind sector, which has accounted for almost 50% of the £80bn spent on the technology across Europe since 2010, can attract a further £54bn in private investment which would help quadruple offshore wind capacity in the UK to 40(GW) by 2030 to provide more than one-third of the nation’s electricity. By 2050, capacity could grow to 90GW.

For offshore wind, a 10-year. £100m industry-funded programme was launched in June 2019 to spur the growth of the UK’s offshore wind sector and benefit UK businesses but the RenewableUK report says the sector needs to overcome a capacity gap to enable the UK to reach its net-zero target.

Their research notes that overall wind capacity, including onshore  reaching 26GW, can grow by 66GW by 2030 to provide more than half of the UK’s power demand. However, to meet the net-zero ambition, total wind capacity would need to expand six-fold from 22GW today to 126GW by 2050.

RenewableUK expects energy storage and green hydrogen to “grow exponentially”. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) notes that 95% of hydrogen was produced using fossil fuels in 2018, but there is scope to produce hydrogen using renewable electricity.

The UK could become a world leader for green hydrogen, as it could become cost competitive much faster, due to enabling policies and low-cost and highly abundant renewables. As such, green hydrogen could be used instead of gas in heavy industries like steelmaking.

Plans to create the world’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster in the Humber region moved forward this month as Phillips 66 and Uniper signed an agreement to deploy a carbon capture and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen production facility.

Plans are now in place to install CCS technologies at the VPI combined heat and power (CHP) plant.

Last year, Drax, Equinor and National Grid published their plans to create the world’s first zero-carbon industrial hub in the Humber region by 2040. The roadmap sets out proposals to build a demonstration hydrogen production facility in the area by 2025 and install carbon capture equipment on one of the four biomass units at Drax’s power station in Selby two years later.

Organisations involved in the project, including Phillips 66, Uniper and the VPI Immingham plant owned by Vitol, have entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build and operate a hybrid CCUS and hydrogen production facility by 2025.

Plans are now in place to install CCS technologies at the VPI combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Refineries owned by Total and Phillips 66 will also explore the use of the technology.

Uniper’s head of hydrogen Rene Schoof said: “The proximity to offshore infrastructure for natural gas supply and carbon storage coupled with access to offshore wind power for electrolysis enables this project to offer a great decarbonisation package, we are very much looking forward to working with the other partners to develop this.”

The project partners claim that the initiative will contribute £18bn towards UK Gross Value Added (GVA), while safeguarding 55,000 jobs in manufacturing across the region.

The North West Energy & Hydrogen Cluster, led by the University of Chester and Manchester Metropolitan University, will create a skills roadmap to develop the “complementary” skill sets of oil and gas works to harness new low-carbon technology such as hydrogen and carbon capture.

The Liverpool and Manchester mayors and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are working with the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) to develop a decarbonised cluster that could deliver 33,000 jobs and save 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

In February, the Government announced £90m of funding to help cut emissions from industrial processes and the built environment, including backing low-carbon hydrogen production plants near Mersey and Aberdeen, and a third project using offshore windfarms off the Grimsby coast to produce clean hydrogen.

RenewableUK’s chief economist Marina Valls, report author, said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for the energy sector. We’re entering an era of rapid technological change as we move closer towards total decarbonisation, using an even wider range of technologies such as renewable hydrogen alongside more wind, solar, battery storage and – crucially –  people participating far more pro-actively in the way our modern energy system operates, making it more flexible.

“Renewable energy sources are penetrating the global energy markets faster than anyone expected, and generating power cheaper than fossil fuels sooner than anyone predicted. In the world we are trying to build, the transition to a modern energy system ultimately means two things: reduced emissions and reduced energy bills for households.”

The UK Government has also launched a £40m Clean Growth Fund to support start-up companies in the fields of low-carbon power, waste, transport and buildings.

The Clean Growth Fund has been launched with £20m of government investment matched by the same amount from charity fund manager CCLA and is open to UK start-ups with low-carbon and sustainable solutions across key sectors, including power, waste management heating of buildings and transport.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “The need for innovative and ambitious ideas across green industries has never been greater. I am pleased that with the help of this fund, promising clean growth start-ups will be able to step up to accelerate the UK’s recovery, while supporting our path to Net Zero by 2050.

“This pioneering new fund will enable innovative low-carbon solutions to be scaled up at speed, helping to drive a green and resilient economic recovery.”

The initiative has been set up to support the UK’s net-zero goal for 2050 and Government is seeking wider private sector investments which could see the fund reach £100m by Autumn 2021.