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Questions 1-7 are identification questions
- What is your view on the current state of hydrogen technology readiness in a
Most of the proof of concept work has been done in terms of the basic technology including to small and medium roll-out, but large and very largescale will cause its own problems, not least in terms of capacity, response to demand, energy balancing, resilience and intermittency.
Microcab has already written a report on the development of the Hydrogen Economy in the UK (given to various relevant UK government and Corporate departments) as a response to the UK Government’s proposal in early February 2020 to change the UK target for banning the sale new fossil fuel vehicles to 2035. Our report was aimed at how you plan the transition to plan the transition to a hydrogen economy in the UK, with an orientation towards our speciality, FCEVs and Hydrogen Refuelling Stations (“HRS”) infrastructure.
The report is in three parts,
- The report/plan itself; and
- An addendum on how to expand HRSs in the most cost effective way according to population and geography in the UK; and
- A Powerpoint presentation (in pdf) on the current and future state of Hydrogen Technology use (as of January 2020).
Links to the three parts are here.
What the Microcab report is based on economically is several studies on hydrogen and renewables the most notable of which is an analysis of 143 countries by Stanford University about the economic advantages and possibilities of large scale transition to renewables and hydrogen over the next 30 years referred to here
with individual analyses of 143 countries here:
This is supplemented by the price of green hydrogen being predicted to be the
same or lower than blue (or grey or brown) hydrogen by 2030 as it scales up.
- What is your view on which sectors are closest to commercial readiness?
Transport, save for the production of sufficient hydrogen to support national, continental or global use.
Vehicles across the range are production ready (and in many cases being sold and have been sold for several years), or are almost production ready.
However, production needs to be scaled up to service the need and to bring cost savings. At present the largest and most experienced players, Toyota and Hyundai are rationing the sale of their vehicles in the UK due to the lack of infrastructure and a viable plan for Hydrogen in the UK. They both have a rule that they will not sell a car where there is no HRS within 25 miles of
where the car will be kept (despite the range of all light FCEVs being a minimum of 200 miles). However, if they were approached on the basis that the Government with HRS providers were going to make HRSs available in a region, or a sufficiently large proportion of Scotland to make it viable, then they may push sales (with accompanying marketing and advertising spend).
It should be pointed out that the majority of Scotland’s population and major cities and towns are within a rectangle from Aberdeen to Ayr which is about 180 miles long and 50 miles wide meaning (in theory) only a few strategically positioned HRSs (which at present if bought individually cost £1-1.5m) could service a very large proportion of Scottish private, company and public drivers, particularly if supplemented by local authorities HRSs for their vehicles and buses, but with public access points as well. Given the Northern
end of the strip is already serviced by 2 HRSs in Aberdeen and there is already another station being built in East Lothian and a facility for Glasgow City Council heavy vehicles, as few as 5 more HRSs may satisfy vehicle manufacturers and users that there was sufficient infrastructure for FCEVs to be a viable buy now option and for them to start pushing sales and production.
Transport is also a vital conduit to public acceptance of hydrogen and to a more general transition to the Hydrogen Economy as it provides everyday public visibility through the vehicles, through the HRSs and infrastructure, and the marketing and advertising that the companies providing these bring to the public space.
Above all, increased use of EVs will bring all the benefits of an emission and noise free (though by EU regulations a noise has to be added to EVs for
safety) environment (though not industry or bustle) which many have now experienced for the first time, though in unfortunate circumstances, while in lockdown due to COVID-19.
A vision of what the urban environment would be like in a renewable and hydrogen economy and environment can be seen here:
- In your view, how is Scotland’s supply chain positioned to take advantage of
the technical and commercial progress that will be made on hydrogen energy systems in the coming years?
Scotland is in a potentially world-leading position to take advantage of the
imminent transition to the Hydrogen economy that will be taking place over
the next 20-30 years. This is because of several factors:
- At present 75% of electricity production in Scotland is from renewables
with 100% envisaged within the next few years (though note – only 21% of consumption is from renewables);
- Scotland has potentially huge renewable resources in on and offshore wind, hydro, and potentially solar (see below);
- Various regional transport projects moving away from fossil fuels, and towards renewables, hydrogen and the hydrogen economy, are much ahead of the rest of the world (including the rest of the UK) namely:
a. Aberdeen – longstanding hydrogen bus use, HRSs, and current plans to ramp up hydrogen production (SMR with CCS);
b. Orkneys – Self-sufficient in electricity production from renewables and hydrogen, hydrogen ferry and looking to export energy and hydrogen;
c. NEL/East Kilbride – aiming at being hydrogen hub based on advanced hydrogen metrology developed by NEL
d. Fife – renewable generation linked to hydrogen production, storage and use;
e. Dundee – advanced roll-out of EVs and EV infrastructure using innovative techniques to encourage or implement use among all
users, public and private, company and individual, and recognised worldwide.
- Scotland is also in a position to be much more flexible and move more quickly than other larger economies/governments and so become a centre of knowledge worldwide on the move to a Renewable/Hydrogen Economy.
- Scotland is in an ideal position in terms of geography, population and expertise, for the Scottish Government and local authorities to get together with the local and UK companies and expertise, to develop roll out of all aspects of the Hydrogen economy. Once implemented successfully, that expertise and products could then be sold to the rest of the world as they get more interested in the technologies and roll-out. This is particularly important in terms of the 75% of the world that has no, or unreliable, electricity grids, for whom the advantages of solar power are obvious in terms of its ability to be nationally, regionally, locally or even domestically produced. The only issue is intermittency of supply meaning storage is necessary, for which Hydrogen is the obvious answer. (Many UK hydrogen based companies and Universities (including Microcab and Coventry University) have been approached by foreign governments and companies, and particularly from China and India, who can see the future of renewables with hydrogen, but lack the expertise. As an example, Professor Jostins of Microcab/Coventry University is on an All India government committee on fuel cell and hydrogen technology.
- At present 75% of electricity production in Scotland is from renewables
- In your view, what industry sectors do you consider have skills which could readily transition to a hydrogen economy?
Engineering, automotive, electronics and software
- In your view, what are Scotland’s key natural and physical assets that can support the development of hydrogen energy systems?
See answer to Q10 – Strong renewables sector already with expansion planned – need hydrogen storage to solve intermittency problem along with grid balancing and other uses of hydrogen
- What is your view on Scotland’s preparedness for an expansion of hydrogen within our energy systems?
See answer to Q10. Also note that the readiness of the Transport sector, and so early uptake, will make accceptance of other aspects of the Hydrogen economy much easier for the public.
- What is your view on the skills required for Scotland to deliver its potential in hydrogen production and adoption to meet the net zero target?
Retraining needs to be invested in on a long term basis if Scotland is moving towards an economy based on new industries. Though not strictly a skill, new (or adapted old) models of employer/employee relations (non-gig as there would need to be investment in productivity and so long-term skilled workers) could be implemented as part of the change where large parts of the economy
were changing anyway. And see Q10.
- Should you wish to make any further comments or observations around the current state of the hydrogen economy in Scotland, or how you think it is likely to develop, please make these below.
See answer to Q10 above – Scotland is in a position to take advantage of the changes that will come in the next 20-30 years due to the advanced nature of some of its projects, knowledge and experience compared to almost anywhere else in the world. It is also in a position to be much more flexible and move more quickly than other larger economies and so become a centre of knowledge worldwide on the move to a Renewable/Hydrogen Economy, itself a marketable commodity.
Scotland is also in a position, as well as large scale wind and hydro, and despite it seeming to be counter-intuitive, to develop and trial local and domestic production of renewable energy and hydrogen, particularly through solar panels which are likely to be revolutionised in terms of efficiency and use in the next decade. An average domestic solar panel system (4kW system – 20-25m2) can produce sufficient electricity for 1 day a week’s production to make sufficient hydrogen (2kg) to fill a small FCEV’s hydrogen tank meaning 200 miles of travel, and also can be used to produce hydrogen for heating or cooking. While (at present) the technology for single households to produce hydrogen at the required pressure is too expensive, it could be part of larger housing developments especially blocks of flats (similar is being trialled in Sweden and Wales, and there is large-scale use of fuel cells for housing in Japan), but more importantly, businesses with properties with large footprints, and so roofs.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the current COVID-19 emergency will eventually lift and economies will need to be resuscitated, generally by reflationary means at a time of very low interest rates. In theory, this means that a it could be a very good time for a re-orientation of an economy to investment in new industries with a view to using expertise and experience to getting ahead of larger and less flexible economies, all of whom are now committed to major green goals but are still formulating plans as to how they reach their self-proclaimed targets. It is also highly likely, given all economies will have suffered similarly, that certain continental and global rules are likely to be relaxed for a period of time, such as State Aid and procurement, which again gives opportunities to a flexible and dynamic government.