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August 2019

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Coal generation becoming a ‘distant memory’ as share of energy mix falls to 0.7%

The amount of energy generated from coal sources in the UK has fallen to a record-low output of 0.7% – a 63% decline on the same period the year prior – with low-carbon making up more than half of the UK’s energy mix.

The UK as clocked up almost three weeks of coal-free power in 2019

The UK as clocked up almost three weeks of coal-free power in 2019

The latest figures from the Department for Energy Business and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) show that less than 1% of the UK’s energy mix was accounted for by coal sources between the months of April and June 2019. The figure is 63% lower than in the same period in 2018.

The statistics show that renewables use has risen 12% year-on-year, driven by offshore wind generation that has increased by 25% over the same period.

“This new record low is a result of our world-leading low carbon energy industry, which provided more than half of our energy last year and continues to go from strength to strength, as we aim to end our contribution to climate change entirely by 2050,” a BEIS spokesperson said.

“Coal-generated energy will soon be a distant memory on our path to becoming a net-zero emissions economy.”

BEIS claims that the statistical trends are in line with plans to eliminate coal-powered generation in the UK by 2025.

The data also found that 99% of the current solar capacity in the UK became operational after 2010, and provided 12.9TWh of power in 2018, a 12% increase compared to 2017.

Previous Government statistics revealed that the renewables share of generation reached 33% in 2018, an increase of 3.9% compared to 2017. Overall, low-carbon sources (renewables and nuclear) accounted for 52.8% of total generation in 2018. 

These findings led the operating firm for National Grid to claim that Great Britain’s electricity system can operate as a zero-carbon grid by 2025, owing to a decreased reliance on coal generation and the emergence of new “smart” technologies.

However, figures published by BEIS revealed that the UK is on course to miss its fourth and fifth carbon budgets by 139 and 245 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) respectively. 

The first three months of 2019 saw the electricity grid clock up 650 hours of coal-free generation – more than was achieved during the entirety of 2017. In total, the UK as clocked up almost three weeks of coal-free power in 2019.

Matt Mace


Government sets aside funds to explore low-carbon hydrogen

The government has awarded 20 projects a share of £7 million to explore innovative ways of making and using low-carbon hydrogen.

BEIS has also announced £350m of new funding alongside the grants – £100 million for a competition to boost hydrogen production and £250m for a new Clean Steel Fund

BEIS has also announced £350m of new funding alongside the grants – £100 million for a competition to boost hydrogen production and £250m for a new Clean Steel Fund

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) granted £4.9m to 13 applicants for its Hydrogen Supply competition and £2m to seven applicants for its Industrial Fuel Switching competition to undertake feasibility studies.

The findings will help determine which of the participants receive further funding to progress their proposals. The competitions will each dole out up to £20m in total.

Climate change minister Lord Duncan said: “Developing hydrogen technology has the potential to not only reduce emissions from industry but could also help us seize the opportunities of the global shift to cleaner economies – with the prize of up 2 million jobs and £170bn of annual exports by 2030.”

One of the winners from the Hydrogen Supply competition is the Gigastack project led by ITM Power. The company is aiming to reduce the cost of electrolysis by developing a new polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyser that can be manufactured in 5MW modules and stacked together to form larger installations at least 100MW in size.

The company envisions the modules being produced in a new semi-automated factory that could churn out up to 1GW of electrolysers each year. For comparison, the largest existing factories around the world have an annual output of less than 30MW.

“The Gigastack project seeks to significantly lower the cost of producing green hydrogen by scaling the individual electrolyser stacks and the production process,” said ITM Power chief executive Graham Cooley.

The company has two partners on the project – Orsted and Element Energy.

Orsted will seek to establish the circumstances in which is it economically viable to produce low-carbon hydrogen using offshore wind farms and electrolysers.

Meanwhile, Element Energy will identify potential end-users, explore business models for the operation of large electrolysers and develop a rollout strategy for the first 100MW units.

Anders Christian Nordstrøm, vice president for hydrogen at Orsted, said: “Combining renewable power with flexible green hydrogen production is a key part of decarbonising energy systems across Europe and ultimately creating a world that runs entirely on green energy.

“Hydrogen production by electrolysis is a technology with great potential and this Gigastack project is an important step forward as we look to reduce costs and make green hydrogen a viable solution for the UK’s energy transformation. It is great to have this support from the UK government for the project.”

Other winners from the Hydrogen Supply competition include the Dolpyhn project from Environmental Resources Management, which would see electrolysers co-located with floating wind farms, and EDF Energy’s Hydrogen-to-Heysham project, which would see them installed at its Heysham 1 and 2 nuclear power stations.

Phil Sinclair, engineering manager at Heysham 1, said: “The key parts in creating a viable hydrogen production process is having a supply of low cost, low carbon electricity, the ability to physically accommodate the equipment and a demand for the product – all of which we have here at Heysham.

“As we look to the future and the changing ways in which we supply and consume energy, it could be that Heysham becomes a hub for hydrogen production, storage and supply. This will be invaluable as we seek other greener ways to power vehicles and heat our homes.”

Here is the full list of grants:

Hydrogen Supply competition

  • Environmental Resources Management – Dolphyn project – £427,600
  • Progressive Energy – gas heated reformer/auto-thermal reformer hydrogen plant: £498,255
  • ITM Power – Gigastack project – £499,905
  • INOVYN Enterprises – HySECURE project – £246,709
  • Pale Blue Dot Energy – Acorn hydrogen project – £453,706
  • EDF Energy – Hydrogen-to-Heysham: £412,034
  • Cranfield University – Bulk Hydrogen Production by sorbent Enhanced steam Reforming (HyPER) – £498,046
  • SGN – Project Methilltoune – £497,239
  • Wood – novel renewable ethanol steam reformer – £182,000
  • Wood – novel steam methane/gas heated reformer – £187,000
  • Oil & Gas Technology Centre – delivery of an offshore hydrogen supply programme via industrial trials at the Flotta Terminal – £494,000
  • Kew Projects – zero carbon hydrogen supply from waste and biomass – £275,000
  • Ecuity Consulting - Harwell ammonia to renewable hydrogen project – £249,000

Industrial Fuel Switching competition:

  • European Marine Energy Centre – HySpirits – £148,609
  • C-Tech Innovation - flexible input low-emission reduction of ore:  £269,553
  • Tata Steel UK – hydrogen for reduction of iron ore in major iron production – £279,817
  • Progressive Energy - HyNet North West – £299,732
  • Vale Europe – Alternative smart platform for integrated refinery energy – £197,314
  • North Lincs. Engineering – biofuels for diesel generation of electricity from very low-grade waste streams – £246,142
  • Mineral Products Association - options for switching UK cement production sites to near zero CO2 emission fuel – £285,653
  • Glass Futures – alternative fuel switching technologies for the glass sector – £299,958

BEIS has also announced £350m of new funding alongside the grants – £100 million for a competition to boost hydrogen production and £250m for a new Clean Steel Fund to support the decarbonisation of iron and steel using hydrogen.

Speaking to Utility Week recently, ITM Power boss Graham Cooley claimed electrolysis powered by renewables could provide a cheaper way to produce low-carbon hydrogen than extracting it from methane and capturing the resulting carbon dioxide emissions.

Northern Gas Networks selected the latter technique as the better option for feeding the £22.7 billion hydrogen gas grid which it has proposed as part of its H21 project, primarily on the basis of cost.

Tom Grimwood

This article appeared first on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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