Written evidence submitted by Ryse Hydrogen (DHH0115)

Ryse Hydrogen plans to build green hydrogen production plants at 5 strategic locations across the UK – Herne Bay, South Wales, Runcorn, Aberdeen and Northern Ireland. These will be the UK’s first network of green hydrogen production sites and could produce over 17,000 tonnes per year of hydrogen when up and running. Together, all 5 plants would unlock £130m of investment to kick start the UK hydrogen economy. The planned plant at Herne Bay, for example, would install an 8.8MW electrolyser with capacity to produce between 8 and 10 tonnes of hydrogen per day. These plants will provide some of the crucial capacity needed to power hydrogen fuelled transport and other application such as heating. The Hydrogen Taskforce estimates green hydrogen production alone will create 9,847 jobs and deliver over £1.3bn of GVA for the UK by 2035.[1] This presents a great opportunity to support the economic levelling up of all nations and regions of the UK.

Ryse Hydrogen welcomes the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan setting ambitious targets for introducing hydrogen into the heat network. A hydrogen gas grid will create significant opportunities to quicken the pace of converting the transport network to hydrogen vehicles, accelerating reductions in air pollution and creating more jobs across UK manufacturers of hydrogen technology.

Heat in homes

Most UK domestic heat is generated in gas boilers, where burning natural gas emits CO2. In 2016 heating from all sources accounted for 37% of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To meet net zero emissions targets, the CCC suggests that 80–90% of homes and all non-residential buildings must use low-carbon heat by 2050. This is likely to be the most challenging aspect of reaching net zero. There are two broad approaches to decarbonising heat generation:

  1. A greater use of electrical heating, particularly individual heat pumps that are not connected to heat networks
  2. Using hydrogen and, to a lesser extent, biomethane in parts of the existing gas network

Both are compatible with widespread heat network use, and a combination of these and improved building efficiency will be needed.

Hydrogen and heating

While heat pumps will play a role in the clean energy transition, they are currently incredibly expensive to install with costs ranging from £8,000 - £35,000.[2] Although some of these costs may be recouped via Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments and cheap day-to day running costs, switching to a heat pump is a big financial commitment for homeowners – hindering the level of adoption. In 2018, only 200,000 heat pumps were in operation in the UK in 2018.[3] Reducing heating carbon intensity via hydrogen over the gas grid, however, provides a customer-focused solution that requires minimal consumer investment or behavioural change. The additional cost of a hydrogen-ready boiler is only around £50 more than a normal boiler.[4]

However, the application of hydrogen in the gas network for domestic heating is currently limited by the tight UK Gas Safety (Management) Regulations which only permit 0.1% hydrogen in the network, despite formerly distributing ‘town gas’ with 40-60% hydrogen. This level was set based on the supply of North Sea Gas which has naturally low hydrogen levels. Currently, any project wanting to vary parts of these regulations must seek an exemption from the Health and Safety Executive. This is currently a lengthy process which is delaying the roll out of projects to decarbonise heat in homes.

Great Britain has a world class gas grid and gas dominates the heat supply curve, heating 83% of its buildings and providing most of its industrial heat. Carbon emissions can be reduced by lowering the carbon content of gas through blending with hydrogen. Compared with solutions such as heat pumps, this cost effectively capitalises on existing gas distribution assets which are designed to deliver peak heat, and importantly means that customers do not require disruptive and expensive changes in their homes. This route has the potential to deliver 29TWh per annum of decarbonised heat in Great Britain, saving £8.1 billion and 119 million tonnes of carbon by 2050.[5]

To pursue this decarbonisation route, the government needs to determine the appropriate level of permissible blending in current gas networks and appliances. It's already been demonstrated that conventional domestic appliances can operate safely on a mix of 20% hydrogen blended with natural gas.[6] This will kick start the use of hydrogen for heating such that further technological development can be undertaken, essential to reach net zero.

We recognise that a combination of electrification and hydrogen is likely to be required to decarbonise the UK’s heat networks to the greatest extent possible. This will enable the most suitable technology to be applied in an area. It is important, therefore, that both technologies can compete on a level playing field to drive best value for consumers. This is paramount given the cost implications for households of decarbonising heating.

We support plans to add 20% of hydrogen into the gas network and believe this should be expanded across the network as quickly as safety checks permit. We also support calls for hydrogen-ready boilers to be mandating by 2025. These measures should be a key priority for consideration in the government’s forthcoming ‘Buildings and Heat Strategy’ to ensure that the UK is on track to deliver Net Zero.

The strategic case for hydrogen

The UK has the potential to become a leader in the global hydrogen economy estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion and support 30 million jobs by 2050. This could unlock significant growth in regions across the UK. The Hydrogen Taskforce estimates that scaling up hydrogen solutions in the UK could unlock £18bn in GVA and 75,000 jobs by 2035.[7] This will support a recovery from the COVID-19 crisis which is sustainable, long-term and supports the UK’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that the UK will not meet its net zero target without significant investment in the hydrogen economy. The Committee’s 2019 net zero report said that “by 2050, a new low-carbon industry is needed with UK hydrogen production capacity of comparable size to the UK's current fleet of gas-fired power stations.” Renewable hydrogen is a carbon emission free fuel with the potential to transform and decarbonise the way we heat our homes.

In order for hydrogen to become cost competitive with natural gas for heating, hydrogen production must be scaled quickly, accelerated deployment of other hydrogen applications, including hydrogen passenger vehicles, will help to drive this. A coordinated and accelerated approach across multiple applications will help to advance the realisation of the UK hydrogen economy which will bring significant environmental and economic benefits.

Hydrogen clearly has an important role to play in decarbonising heating and transport, but in addition, investment in renewable hydrogen production plants would also boost the UK wind industry. Prioritising renewable hydrogen will require new wind generation capacity to be brought online alongside hydrogen production plants to power electrolysers. In doing so, this new source of demand for renewable power, particularly if government provides long term hydrogen supply contracts, will unlock further growth in the renewable industry with widespread benefits across the UK supply chain.

We encourage the committee to consider the agreement made by FPT Industrial, IVECO and Snam in Italy. This collaboration will “develop integrated sustainable mobility to promote further use of alternative drive vehicles, with a shared strategy of collaborative development of vehicles and distribution network”. In practical terms, this is a formal collaboration between a gas network and manufacturer of hydrogen-powered heavy good vehicles to develop a ‘gas + transport’ model for growing a hydrogen network.


UK hydrogen policy

To maximise the full potential of hydrogen across the economy, including in decarbonising heat networks, hydrogen policy needs to be coordinated and joined-up across government to stimulate meaningful investment and action. The utilisation of hydrogen in the heat network provides an opportunity to unlock hydrogen’s wider potential, by significantly increasing demand for hydrogen.

To do this the government must support both hydrogen production and demand in parallel. Support for either production or demand alone will allow other countries to steal a march where they have more comprehensive hydrogen strategies and financial incentives in place. Not only will local areas miss out on considerable investment and jobs which are sustainable in the long term, but the UK will be beholden to the speed and nature of roll out in other countries.

HMG should specifically target support to build a UK hydrogen economy by:

         Promoting hydrogen production by providing long term hydrogen contracts, with guaranteed, sustainable revenues and support for new wind generation capacity

         Providing support in parallel to increase the demand for hydrogen, for example, by reforming UK Gas Safety (Management) Regulations

         Focus on areas where the UK has world-leading advantages, such as in the production of hydrogen buses. All three UK bus manufacturers make a hydrogen bus, whereas China produces 99% of the world’s supply of the only other zero emission bus alternative – battery electric buses. The Government should make a ‘big bet’ on hydrogen buses as part of its plan to unlock and grow wider private investment in hydrogen across the UK.

We are closely supporting the work of the BEIS Hydrogen Council to bring together government and industry thinking. In addition to this, we recommend that a cross-government working group be established. This should bring together HMT, BEIS, DfT, DEFRA and MHCLG, as well as the devolved administrations, to ensure that policy, such as the forthcoming ‘Buildings and Heat Strategy’, is coordinated across government to advance the supply of and demand for hydrogen in parallel and in doing so maximise its contribution to the achievement of net zero.


December 2020


[1] Hydrogen Taskforce, Economic Impact Assessment, 12 August 2020

[2] Greenmatch, The running costs of heat pumps, 23 October 2020

[3] Statista, Annual amount of heat pumps in operation in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2013 to 2018, 2020.

[4] Harrabin, R., ‘Climate change hope for hydrogen fuel’, BBC News, 2 January 2020.

[5] HyDeploy, Ofgem Publication

[6] Energy Networks Association, Hydrogen Blending Commercial Framework, September 2020

[7] Hydrogen Taskforce, Economic Impact Assessment, 12 August 2020.