Home Climate Change Let's Not Make The Wind And Solar Mistake With Green Hydrogen

Let’s Not Make The Wind And Solar Mistake With Green Hydrogen

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It’s apparent that, with some wibbles about intermittency, at least some of the promises of wind and solar power have come true. They are indeed price competitive with other forms of electricity generation. That also means that to a large extent the climate change problem is solved. Solar, especially, is going to continue to fall in price and once non-emittive methods of energy generation are clearly cheaper then all will naturally gravitate to their use.

There are those who insist that this is all a result of government planning. Which is odd. As the price reductions in solar power don’t seem to have changed over the period of said government planning. The – roughly you understand – 20% per annum decline in costs was the same in the 1980s, when only weird hippies had anything to do with it, as in the 90s, when planning had little to do with it, in the 00s when it had a lot, and now into the 2020s when the support has largely been withdrawn.

Something that plods along at the same rate regardless of government and planning cannot be said to have been hugely influenced by government and planning.

Which leads us to green hydrogen:

New subsidies loom as politicians try and set the stage for the industry to grow, and repeat their success with offshore wind, where guaranteed electricity prices have turned it into a major force, supplying 10pc of UK electricity.

“Blue hydrogen is currently more expensive than natural gas, so some government support will be necessary to encourage take up in industry,” says Simon Virley, head of energy at KPMG.

He adds: “With the right support, green hydrogen could be cheaper than blue hydrogen within a decade. The cost reductions required are very achievable and similar to those seen for solar, or offshore wind, over the past decade.”

The actual requirement here is that electricity for hydrolysis continue to get cheaper and cheaper. Which, given that intermittency issue and the price of solar, is going to happen. So, we don;t actually need government and the plans and the subsidies. It’s all already in hand.

So, let us not make the same mistake twice then. Green hydrogen is going to turn up when there are regular excesses of electricity which can be used to split water. That’s the necessary and sufficient precondition. We’re really pretty sure that’s going to happen without further intervention. We’re also really pretty sure that if it doesn’t happen then green hydrogen doesn’t work.

So, there’s no point in subsidising another generation of green “entrepreneurs” is there? We unnecessarily made Jeremy Leggett rich last time around, no need to do it again.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Your statement “They are indeed price competitive with other forms of electricity generation” should read “They are indeed price competitive with other forms of electricity generation if we ignore the additional costs for connecting into to the existing grid, the taxpayer funded subsidies, the fact that as renewables will NEVER be able to provide baseload we’ll have to keep building fossil fuel / nuclear power stations in addition to whatever renewables we build” (I could go on but you get the gist).

    • I agree with you, Addolff. As for hydrogen, while NASA can afford the expense of using it to fuel spacecraft, storage makes it too difficult to use with cars or aircraft. Inevitably one concludes that it’d have to be combined with some other element. N2 has been suggested, but I of course feel that carbon is the best.

      The infrastructure and techniques for using hydrocarbons have already been produced, so all we need is green CO2 to react with the H2. Since the CO2 in the air is in equilibrium with that in the ocean, we can extract the more concentrated CO2 from seawater. But you need to process about 23 000 gallons of seawater to produce 1 gallon of petrol. So we’d need the subsidies here as well.

      Fortunately I don’t really believe in climate change, so I’d suggest we just forget all about it.

    • Even if it were true that unreliables were price competitive, there’s still the slight issue that PV panels in the UK don’t generate enough energy over their useful life to ‘repay’ the energy required for their production (and, given that their production is largely in China, it’s very unlikely that energy was particularly ‘green’).

  2. Let’s have somebody review the details of any planned hydrogen economy. Somebody who has an engineering background and a little scepticism. Or we could let somebody else actually pioneer it and make all the mistakes first. If it works, it won’t hurt to be second. If it doesn’t work, it WILL hurt to be first.

    And do not for a minute believe any claim by anyone pushing it, especially if they stand to make money.

    Oh, and no subsidy, actual or backdoor.

    • This is exactly what the carbon tax does. Here are the new rules, the new incentives. So, go off and test, in the real world, anything and everything that works inside these new rules. The carbon tax provides both the incentive and also the measuring rod to test. That’s the point of it.

  3. No, it penalises one form of energy to the benefit of others which cost more. Level playing field competition is all that is required. And of course I repeat that due diligence is necessary BEFORE we destroy the world as we know it.

  4. There’s quite a long way to go. UK solar and wind together over the course of a year generate an average of 7GW. Demand peaks at about 40-45GW and averages about 30GW. The elephant in the room is gas usage. Not counting that for industrial or power generation, this years peak (January 21st) local gas usage was 112GW. This gives a combined energy peak of about 150GW. Due to the seasonal poor performance of solar in UK winters and wind conditions not being good at that time solar and wind together were producing less than 3.5GW i.e. 2,3% of the total demand.

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