UK should take leadership in using hydrogen, argues IMechE

Government should provide more support for power to gas technology and use the gas grid for energy storage in the form of hydrogen, according to a new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The report argues that excess electricity should be used to create hydrogen through electrolysis. This can be used locally, or injected into the gas grid and it would support an expansion of renewable power in the UK. Alternatively, the hydrogen can  be used in other areas of the energy system, being reused later to generate electricity, or forming a green feedstock for industries such as ammonia and plastics production.

The report, ‘Energy from Gas: Taking a Whole System Approach’,  outlines ways that gas could be used to make the UK energy system greener, cheaper and more efficient. It makes three main recommendations to government:

  • Create an industrial forum that brings together the nuclear, renewable power and gas sectors to promote the generation and storage of hydrogen.
  • Work with the gas industry to promote the use of up to 20% hydrogen in the gas distribution network including change in pipes and materials by 2023. 
  • Commission a comprehensive comparative study of the long-term sustainability of materials used to create lithium ion EV batteries versus power-to-gas/ gas systems and fuel cells.

“Government and industry need to step up efforts to provide funding programmes and demonstration sites to encourage the greater use of hydrogen as energy storage,” said Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lead author of the report.

“The UK has a strong track record of being at the cutting edge of new energy developments, and this could present the country with a chance to be a world leader in power-to-gas and hydrogen technology.”

Further reading

Read New Power’s interview with Jenifer Baxter