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Hydrogen for the Scottish Energy Networks in 2030

The Scottish Government has set out their vision for Scotland's electricity and gas networks to 2030. The Electricity and Gas Networks Vision builds on Scotland's Energy Strategy, which was published in December 2017.

The Networks Vision considers how Scotland's electricity and gas network infrastructure will continue to support the energy transition, the crucial role that Scotland's electricity and gas networks will play in the energy transition currently underway. It builds on Scotland's Energy Strategy, and establishes the key issues, principles and actions which should influence the networks' investment, regulation, operation an evolution over the coming decade. The Networks Vision sets out the key activities currently underway, and the factors and processes which will influence investment, innovation and growth across Scotland's energy networks. It looks at the key choices that will need to be taken over the coming decade, and the extent to which Scottish needs, circumstances and ambitions - for renewables, community energy development, and the need to put consumer interests at the heart of the energy transition - should influence these processes and decisions.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, outlined the opportunity for hydrogen in a low carbon gas network: “The ability to deliver low carbon gases, including hydrogen, through the gas networks represents one option for the future of low carbon heat provision, and for transport as a fuel for road, rail and shipping. Repurposing the gas network in this way would allow us to continue using the flexibility and reach that the gas network provides. In the years ahead we propose to explore further opportunities for the generation of low carbon hydrogen, and the use of the gas networks for its distribution and storage” and set out some of the next steps “We will continue to work with our stakeholders on a range of hydrogen energy and transport initiatives, and publish an interactive mapping tool charting hydrogen activity on a region by region basis across Scotland.”

The Gas Networks Vision is that in 2030 gas networks will remain a vital and flexible component of Scotland’s national infrastructure, delivering affordable energy for heating our homes and businesses. The energy resource carried by the networks will be lower carbon than it is today. The policy, regulatory and technical developments will have been put in place to allow natural and low carbon gas to be blended in the networks, including a contribution from hydrogen. We will also understand clearly the feasibility and costs of repurposing the gas networks to carry 100% hydrogen, and will have made strategic decisions about the long term role of the networks and the wider decarbonisation of heat.

The Networks Vision also sets out how the culture of innovation in the energy sector will continue to grow. For electricity networks this means a focus on coordinating and integrating new technologies, particularly electric vehicles, heat pumps and new generation. Meanwhile, for gas, it means a focus on innovation to support hydrogen and low carbon gases. With the development of new technologies, innovative approaches to bring together previously disparate parts of the energy system can ensure that we make the most of local opportunities in a ‘whole-system’ way. Delivering the skills that a changing sector needs, including in new specialisms such as cyber security and data science, will be a key priority for us our businesses and our education sector.

Scotland has been leading the way in developing smart electricity grids and more efficient ways to use our electricity networks, with Orkney pioneering the world’s first ever smart grid. Scotland is setting a similar example when it comes to gas. The Oban gas network has helped demonstrate over the past two years that a wider range of gases, including lower carbon gases, can be transported safely, while the H100 project plans to demonstrate a 100% hydrogen gas network in Scotland in the next few years.

Hydrogen can be produced via electrolysis from renewably-generated electricity. For example, the Surf and Turf project on Orkney links a 500 kW electrolyser to a community owned 900 kW wind turbine, and the BIG HIT project will deploy a 1MW electrolyser also linked to a community wind turbine. Scotland’s offshore wind capabilities also offer a potential opportunity to harness renewable energy for the production of hydrogen. Electrolysis provides an opportunity to link the gas and electricity networks in a more coordinated way. Electrolysers could be fitted at locations where the network is constrained, and where the extra electrical demand they create helps reduce the need to curtail wind power. This could also support efficient cross-network decarbonisation, if the same locations were suitable for injecting hydrogen into the gas network.

This new Networks Vision reinforces the key role that hydrogen could play in connecting and helping decarbonise our heat, industrial and transport systems. Hydrogen also has the potential to transform our urban, rural and island economies, and support the expansion of renewable energy.