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Get ready for green hydrogen

Luke Worrall explores the implications and explains how businesses can use existing CHP technology to save money now, while future-proofing their investment as the UK transitions to hydrogen power

Backed by the energy regulator Ofgem, 300 homes in Scotland will soon become the first in the world to use 100 per cent green hydrogen, in a four-year trial that will further cement the UK’s green recovery.

Despite years of slow progress, changes to the UK energy system are coming thick and fast. The prime minister unveiled his 10-point plan for a green recovery in November, 2020, outlining his vision for a green industrial revolution. The plan, which covers everything from clean energy and transport, to nature and innovative technologies, forms the blueprint that will allow the UK to meet its legally-binding target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The importance of hydrogen

The prime minister’s plan will build on the UK’s strengths by “Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.”

Now, Ofgem has awarded £18m to gas distributor SGN to develop a pioneering project that will see homes in Fife, Scotland, fitted with free hydrogen boilers, heaters and cooking appliances. According to a report by the Guardian, the homes “will begin to receive green gas from the end of 2022, at no extra charge, and up to 1,000 homes could be included if the first phase of the trial is completed successfully.”

Unlike natural methane gas, green hydrogen can be produced using renewable energy like wind power. Here the electricity is used to power an electrolyser, a power-to-gas plant that splits the hydrogen from water molecules, leaving behind just oxygen. While a blend of hydrogen and natural gas can be transported using existing pipelines, high-purity hydrogen will require major upgrade works to pipelines and appliances. 

Future-proof systems

So, what do these changes mean for businesses looking to reduce costs now while preparing for a changing infrastructure? Well, one of the most efficient ways of meeting your electricity & heat demand will continue to be by using onsite combined heat and power (CHP) systems that use gas to produce cheap electricity and heat. The high efficiency means that it’s possible to pay just £6.50 for £12 worth of electricity.

However, most CHP systems are designed to work with natural gas and not hydrogen, and given that they typically have a lifecycle of around 15 years, businesses will face a dilemma in the coming years: how do I invest in reducing energy costs, without having to overhaul my entire CHP system when hydrogen is introduced to the network? 

Luckily, it’s now possible to buy a CHP system that can start saving you money on your energy spend immediately, but is future-proofed for the upcoming changes. 

Having spent many years installing and servicing heating and power systems for commercial, industrial and agricultural sites, NerG offers a variety of hydrogen-ready CHP plants. These industry leading plants can run on natural gas, but can also run on up to 40 per cent hydrogen without modification. Furthermore, they can be configured to run on 100 per cent hydrogen with a simple retrofit. 

As the UK energy landscape adapts to meet the UK’s net-zero targets and begins to incorporate renewable sources of energy like green hydrogen, it’s important that businesses respond in kind. By installing hydrogen-ready heat and power systems, businesses can reduce their energy costs now, while future-proofing their electricity supply and safeguarding their investment.

Luke Worrall, is business development manager at heat and power specialist NerG,

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