Chris Goggin examines the recently published UK “Energy Security Strategy” and what this means for customers of domestic fuel and related products. Specific focus of this article will be applied towards how diversifying alternative power avenues will satisfy national demand and how this process affects how the UK secures its sources of domestically cultivated energy.
Russian military intervention in Ukraine has pushed global energy and geopolitics into a new epoch. EU Fossil fuel payments that assist Russia’s economy will entirely cease within two years. Multiple European and international governments are beginning to publish centralized strategies that offer solutions to locating, developing and introducing future and current secure national energy supplies.
The recently published UK government paper, titled: British Energy Security Strategy outlines a plan to reduce domestic energy costs and decarbonise national fuel supplies whilst ensuring future energy security.
A reduction in fossil fuel consumption is a key facet of this strategy. At present Russia controls an ability to nefariously affect international energy market prices that hurt the domestic customer, a current major concern for notable economies across the globe.
There is urgent need for Western economies and nations to replace fossil fuels and natural gas imports. British Energy Security Strategy measures implement the replacement of fuel imports with the rapid advancement of hydrogen and renewable production as well as three new nuclear installations by 2030.
The current British energy mix is reliant on natural gas which is both dispersed domestically and responsible for 41% of generated electricity. Due to these volumes natural gas can be considered a baseload power source.
Energy provision can be separated into two distinct columns that best describe how UK energy providers deal with on and off demand at peak times of year.
To provide continuity to domestic energy supplies, a baseload of power is dispersed to communities throughout the UK. A baseload of power ensures that the minimum requirement of national demand is constantly met. Baseload energy demands are satisfied via energy sources that are cost effective and readily available, such as natural gas.
Dispatchable power refers to separate sources of energy that are utilized in times of peak demand. Throughout the calendar year the UK power grid will experience times of pressure where it is a necessity to incorporate additional energy to cope with demand and output.
Optimistic estimations can assume a nuclear capacity of 12GW by 2040 and an offshore wind generation capacity of 50GW in a similar time line. Nuclear energy alone will not possess the capability of providing a baseload of UK energy once natural gas imports are reduced. For this to be made possible other forms of fuel will have to be utilized to assist in electrical generation, such as renewables.
If the UK is to rely on absorbing renewable resources, further pressure will be added to the energy system due to the seasonal nature of sunlight and wind. Neither solar or wind can be considered reliable enough to provide a consistent baseload source of power. A further source of energy is needed to help balance the UK energy grid and options.
A form of energy mentioned early on in the UK Energy Security Strategy is hydrogen. Hydrogen is to be a major contributor towards the UK national energy mix, both as a short term dispatchable power source and as a potential future baseload.
In a short-term approach the UK government favour the use of blue hydrogen as a preliminary step towards overall domestic green hydrogen usage. In making this possible various hydrogen hubs are being constructed across northern UK.
HyNet Northwest is located in the North West of UK, H2 Saltend in Yorkshire and BP in Teesside are all developing projects that will be using CCUS technology and producing blue hydrogen for localized consumption. It has also been recently reported by UK mainstream media that the UK government hope to fast track these plans as quickly as possible.
As UK imports of natural gas and fossil fuels are reduced and eventually nullified, the UK energy mix will experience a transformation that will introduce possibilities for alternative green gasses and biofuels such as rDME, LPG and BioLPG to become staples of UK energy mix.
Although there is no mention of pink hydrogen within the British Energy Security Strategy, this too could be used to fill the void left by natural gas once expelled from UK energy options.
Pink hydrogen occurs when produced through nuclear means. Considering the UK plans to add 3 new nuclear installations by 2030, it is safe to assume that pink hydrogen will play a role in future UK energy issues.
To summarise the British Energy Security Strategy: it appears that the overall objective is to shield UK energy companies and customers from adverse price spikes. Doing so means a switch from foreign fuel imports of fossil fuels and natural gas towards a programme of sustainable national energy cultivation that favours the expansion of nuclear and renewable power with the immediate development and advancement of blue and eventually green hydrogen.
A baseload of power will be supplied through nuclear and renewables with other alternative forms of gas to be also incorporated into daily activates to deal with dispatchable peak times.
Once strategy transforms into active operations, UK policy may well see fit to add further energies such as pink hydrogen in assisting domestic energy demand being met with relative comfort.
After a sustained period of the UK government largely overlooking hydrogen, hydrogen appears to be fully accepted by the existing UK administration in released public literature.
The British Energy Security strategy states that only manufactured hydrogen at present can offer the volumes of scale required to fully balance the UK energy grid. Hydrogen now appears to be the fuel of the UK’s future.