18 Jan How Will The UK Meet 2035 Net Zero Energy Capacity Targets?
The UK has set ambitious targets to decarbonise the national grid by 2035, but a new report has raised concerns about how these goals will be achieved. One of the issues is how the UK’s existing energy infrastructure will be repurposed to accommodate cleaner energy sources such as hydrogen gas.
Work has already begun to repurpose some commercial gas pipework from natural gas to 100% hydrogen gas. Currently a trial is underway to test the viability of a decommissioned 30km natural gas pipeline between Grangemouth and Granton on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Gas engineers are also working on other possibilities to build evidence for the compatibility of the existing natural gas infrastructure with hydrogen gas. Underground and overground inspections are taking place to determine the integrity of the existing pipelines, and hydrotesting is being carried out to test out the high water pressure capabilities.
At a further stage in the repurposing process, the pipelines will be cleaned out with compressed air and tested for any leaks. If they are considered viable, the natural gas pressure regulators will then be replaced with hydrogen gas-ready equivalents, which are smaller and lighter. The pipelines will then be stress tested with 100% hydrogen.
It is hoped that much of the UK’s existing gas systems will similarly be repurposed over the next decade. However, The Engineer recently published an article concerning a new report into the UK’s plans to decarbonise the energy system, titled Countdown to 2035.
The report, by AtkinsRéalis, suggests that the UK would need 15.5GW of new energy capacity each year to remain on course to hit the 2035 decarbonisation targets. In 2021, the government published a report commiting to decarbonising the electricity system by 2035 and transitioning towards domestic green energy sources such as offshore wind.
The report brought forward by 15 years the previous target to achieve this by 2050, which was outlined in the government’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, published in 2020. The government aims to deploy new-generation clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, offshore wind, solar, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.
However, the AtkinsRéalis report warned that the build rate for the necessary new energy infrastructure would need to be stepped up considerably in order to achieve this. It states that a total of 187GW of new capacity needs to be built to meet the 2035 target, and in 2022 just 4.5GW of new capacity was added.
Sarah Long, AtkinsRéalis market director for Net Zero Energy, said: “From reforming the planning system and strengthening energy networks to bolstering the UK’s supply chain, a more gradual increase in new energy capacity is the most likely path to meeting net zero energy goals over the next decade.”
She added: “However, the scale of the challenge becomes greater each year: we must urgently shift from scenarios into delivery. The UK must maintain a laser-like focus on deployment and delivery of net zero generation and the energy infrastructure required to support it.”
“That includes initiatives such as the Civil Nuclear Roadmap announced last week that lays out interim targets against long-term goals, encompasses support for new technology as well as proven large-scale projects and is an example of the type of framework that will help to provide long-term certainty to investors and boost the build rate.”
Elsewhere, plans have been approved for a new hydrogen facility in Ellesmere Port. Place Northwest reports that two new hydrogen plants will be constructed on a site adjacent to the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex. It is estimated that the plants will eventually create enough energy to power the entire city of Liverpool.
Recommending approval, a report to the committee, said: “The hydrogen fuel production plant with integrated carbon capture would provide a ‘low carbon fuel’ source (as defined by the Government) to both local industry and, subject to approval of pipeline infrastructure, to the wider North West region, bringing substantial economic and environmental benefits.”
Progressive Energy is the lead partner in the EET Hydrogen scheme. Progressive Energy’s HyNet project director, David Parkin, described the project as “the UK’s first large-scale, low-caron hydrogen production facility,” adding that it places “the North West region at the forefront of the UK’s journey towards net zero carbon emissions”.
New pipe infrastructure will be developed to transport the low carbon hydrogen across the North West of England and North Wales.