- On your website you say GENCOMM is striving to address “the energy sustainability challenges of North-West Europe communities.” Now, this might just be a case of referring to your service area, but are there unique energy changes in this region? And if so, what are they?
Energy is the very lifeblood of today’s society and economy. Our work, leisure, and our economic, social and physical welfare all depend on the sufficient, uninterrupted supply of energy. Yet we take it for granted – and our energy demand continues to grow, year after year. Traditional fossil energy sources such as oil and gas which supply this energy are part of the climate crisis and in the not too distant future this will have to be met increasingly from alternative primary energy sources. We must strive to make these more sustainable to avoid the negative impacts of global climate change, the growing risk of supply disruptions, price volatility and air pollution that are associated with today’s energy systems. The energy policy of the European Commission advocates securing energy supply while at the same time reducing emissions that are associated with climate change. This calls for immediate actions to promote greenhouse gas emissions-free energy sources such as renewable energy sources, alternative fuels for transport and to increase energy efficiency.
Energy security for Europe is a major issue, for peripheral communities it is a critical issue, remote communities that are at the end of the grid and as a result suffer from energy insecurity. Fossil fuel, particularly crude oil, is confined to a few areas of the world and continuity of supply is governed by political, economic and ecological factors. These factors conspire to force volatile, often high fuel prices while, at the same time, environmental policy is demanding a reduction in greenhouse gases and toxic emissions. To address this energy challenge a coherent energy strategy is required, addressing both energy supply and demand while taking account of the whole energy lifecycle including fuel production, transmission and distribution, energy conversion, the impact on energy equipment manufacturers and the end-users of energy systems. In the short term, the aim should be to achieve higher energy efficiency and increased supply from European energy sources, in particular renewables.
In the long term, a hydrogen-based economy will have an impact on all these sectors. In view of technological developments, vehicle and component manufacturers, transport providers, the energy industry, and even householders are seriously looking at alternative energy sources and fuels and more efficient and cleaner technologies – especially hydrogen and hydrogen-powered fuel cells.
Security of energy supply is of major concern for the European Union. As North Sea production peaks, our dependence on imported oil – vital for today’s transport systems – is forecast to grow from around 75% today, to in excess of 85% by 2020, much of it coming from the Middle East. It is essential we increase the renewable energy generated locally to reduce the dependency of imported fuel.
Rural and isolated communities in Europe face unique energy issues related to efficiency, reliability and sustainability. This is commonly due to dependency on external and fossil fuel energy supply, low electricity grid capacity and limited or no connection to wider grids. As a result these communities have higher than average carbon emissions and are more vulnerable to fluctuating fuel prices.
Renewable energy sources continue to increase their share of installed capacity worldwide. Their integration, in conjunction with increased energy efficiency and other low-carbon technologies, constitutes the best opportunity to achieve energy sustainability. Renewable energy sources also constitute the best option to avert the risks that conventional non-renewable sources pose to health, geopolitics, the economy and the environment.
Can Hydrogen be part of an energy security solution for peripheral communities? The answer with these new conversion technologies is yes they can!
GenComm is working with communities across Europe to deliver a paradigm shift in the energy sector and put communities at the start of energy grids. GenComm seeks to enable communities to move away from the environmental degradation and energy insecurity they have suffered and use Hydrogen as the energy vector to put communities first in the new net zero energy equation.
2: New, work on hydrogen-based energy technologies has been going on for some time, and it has been particularly robust in Europe, why do you think it’s the best “clean energy” solution for the communities you serve?
Hydrogen and fuel cells are seen by many as key solutions for the 21st century, enabling clean efficient production of power and heat from a range of primary energy sources but can they deliver for local and peripheral communities.
Hydrogen is not a primary energy source like coal and gas. It is an energy carrier. Initially, it is being produced using existing energy systems based on different conventional primary energy carriers and sources. As Renewable Energy Sources increasingly become the most important source for Electricity Generation the production of green hydrogen will become a viable solution in the longer term.
As we strive to achieve the 2050 Zero Emission targets hydrogen is a ‘game changing’ technology with extensive applications across transport, stationary power and beyond. Hydrogen, as an energy carrier, and as an enabling technology, will be critical in the delivery of a clean energy future.
As an energy carrier, hydrogen can play a significant role in energy security, carbon reduction and economic growth. It will be the crucial element of any future energy system and will change the energy dynamic putting consumers at the start of the new energy system instead of being at the end where they currently are.
On the technology front, hydrogen, a clean energy carrier that can be produced from any primary energy source, and fuel cells which are very efficient energy conversion devices, are attracting the attention of public and private authorities. Hydrogen and fuel cells, by enabling the so-called hydrogen economy, hold great promise for meeting in a quite unique way, our concerns over security of supply and climate change.
3:Could you explain, for the sake of readers who don’t know, what smart hydrogen is?
Smart Hydrogen combines (1) a solution to the electrical grid network challenges faced by the mature renewable electricity technologies, (2) opportunities in hydrogen supply pathway, (3) prospects for new hydrogen applications and (4) creation of different and new trends in energy markets with “Power to X technologies”. The aim of Smart Hydrogen is to create a hydrogen value chain that is optimal in technical performance and financial revenues.
SMARTH2 is a disruptive technology that will enable Europe to reach a position where it can utilise excess amounts of this green electricity which is currently curtailed, but also, in the future, support further deployment of renewables across the region. When the ‘tipping point’ of renewable generation is reached (there is more renewable generation than demand), electricity is inexpensive on wholesale markets. As such, this cheap electricity can be used to produce hydrogen as an energy carrier for use especially in the transport sector. Through the sector coupling approach, it is intended to link the green production of electricity with the transport sector with SMART H2 as the energy vehicle because it is highly efficient, flexible and sustainable. To this end, SMARTH2 will develop H2 hubs and couple the renewable energy and transport sectors resulting in increased renewable energy generation and productivity and directly reducing GHG gases. In order to achieve successful energy transition to renewables in Europe we must look to achieving full commercial opportunity for renewable energy. In order to achieve this, we have to ensure commercial flexibility in the coupling of the renewable energy sector and the transport sector.
The concept “Power to X” (P2X) refers to energy conversion technologies that allow for the decoupling of power production plants from the electrical market to use their product in other sectors (such as transport, heating and chemicals). P2X is particularly relevant for renewable power technologies as they face a series of challenges to increase their participation in the current energy matrix. These challenges without a robust solution hinder the uptake of renewable energy technologies hence delaying the current transition to a sustainable energy sector and decelerating the effort to reduce GHG emissions from this sector. The GenComm project is creating a roadmap for Hydrogen in which investors from existing and future renewable power plants can identify, techno-economically analyse and project the inclusion of a fitting P2X technology to their infrastructure.
SMARTH2 aims to overcome the challenge of increasing the deployment of renewable energy in grid constrained European regions by demonstrating future large scale hydrogen energy storage flexibility via greening the fuel sector to be used within the transport and industry sectors. It will help create a European
2050 Hydrogen transport energy vision, create a techno-economic usable model with a decision support tool that can technically and financially optimize the fuel production and commercialisation, and also develop the first hydrogen suite of training course for maintenance, operator and user of hydrogen vehicles.
The global energy context has three main sectors: power, heating/cooling and transport. Despite seeing a growth deceleration from the early years of this century, global electrical power demand is expected to continue in a trend of unceasing growth. Projections up to 2040 present an expected average annual growth trend of 0.6% for OECD countries, with a considerably higher expected growth trend of 1.9%for non-OECD nations. Parallel to the constant increase in power demand, renewable energy capacity has experienced, and will continue to experience, an exponential rise. At the end of 2015 renewable electricity represented 23.7% of global electricity production. In Europe alone, continuing an ongoing trend, renewable energy accounted for a large majority (86%) of all new power installations in 2016. Currently there are eight different renewable sources identified and present in global energy markets, particularly in the power market:
(1) biomass energy,
(2) geothermal power and heat,
(4) ocean energy,
(5) solar photovoltaics (PV),
(6) concentrating solar thermal power (CSP),
(7) solar thermal heating and cooling,
In 2015, the share of renewable energy in global final energy consumption was 24.5 % .Global energy demand in the transport sector has followed a continuous increase of 2% annually on average since 2005. The sector accounts for about 28% of overall energy consumption and for 23% ofenergy-related GHG emissions. Crude oil products account for around 93% of final energy consumption in transport. Renewable energy in the transport sector has three main entry points: (1) liquid biofuels as a standalone fuel or in a mixture with conventional liquid fuels, (2) gaseous biofuels, and (3) electric transport, which relies on battery storage or hydrogen as an energy carrier. It has been established in many studies that high shares of renewable energy in the European electricity sector can be both technically feasible and affordable.
These studies show that the most cost-effective solutions from renewables are dominated by wind and solar renewables generation but are limited by grid saturation. Therefore, for Europe to meet energy demand from renewable energy a disruptive technology is needed that negates the need for an expensive expansion of the transmission network or expensive electricity storage solutions and which allows us to look beyond the electricity demand side of the energy equation. In order for Europe to meet renewable energy targets and reductions in GHG we must look to other energy sectors especially transport in order to maximise the flexibility and variability of energy from renewables. Energy supply and transport account for 39% of the world’s CO2 emissions. If we want to achieve a position where energy demand can be met from renewable energy supply, then look where SMART H2 has the potential for real ‘sector coupling’ in linking the renewable energy sector with the transport sector and achieving demand/supply balance with a zero CO2 footprint. SMARTH2 provides a solution to the electrical grid network challenges faced by the mature renewable electricity technologies, Opportunities in hydrogen supply pathway, Prospects for new hydrogen applications in the transport and industry sectors and creates new energy markets
4:You’ve got three pilot plants on the books linking facilities creating renewable energy with energy users and you’ve got energy storage. Are these pilot plants up and running?
GenComm has developed 3 hybrid hydrogen technology pilots from renewable technologies – Wind, Bio and Solar. Empowering energy sustainable communities, driving the EU's transformation to a low-carbon energy system
The GENCOMM project addresses the energy sustainability challenges of NWE communities through the implementation of smart, hydrogen-based energy matrixes. The project certifies the commercial maturity of hydrogen technologies by implementing 3 pilot plants, linking the 3 main European renewable sources, Solar Power, Wind Power and Bioenergy, with energy storage and the main forms of energetic demand; heat, power and transportation fuels. Based on the pilot plants; integrated technical and financial simulation models have been developed. Together, both models have delivered a Decision Support Tool that provides a roadmap for communities to transition to renewable, hydrogen-based energy matrixes. The final goal of the project is, through the combination of sources and forms of demand, to lead NWE’s road to sustainability while granting hydrogen its position as a commercially viable energy medium for the future.
GenComm is technically and financially validating and modelling the renewable H2 value chain and adapting it to the Decision Support Tool (DST) that empowers North Western Europe (NWE) communities into sustainable, local and autonomous energy matrixes. The DST is directed to community energy stakeholders (utilities, policy-makers and private firms in the energy sector), as the key agents to implement the proposed matrix.
The project is successfully delivering a sustainable just transition to green and resilient communities. This is being achieved by;
- Empowering communities to implement hydrogen-based energy matrixes to sustainably satisfy their energetic demand specifically in meeting their public transport mobility needs powered by Green H2. Ecological sustainability and a new growth strategy is at the heart of GenComm.
- Stimulating the uptake of renewable hydrogen-based technologies by successfully running 3 demonstration facilities in Northern Ireland wind to H2, Germany solar to H2 and Scotland Bio to H2. Establishing a strong group of energy stakeholders – the Community Hydrogen Forum (CH2F) is devoted to this, through the use of hydrogen, to “sustainabilise” the energy matrix of the NWE region. The CH2F platform is an energy doorway designed to help everyone understand the opportunities renewable hydrogen technologies offer in Europe
GenComm is delivering the tools that will enable communities to access hydrogen equity, enabling isolated communities to become sustainable and resilient, opening opportunities so all of Europe can fully realise the benefits of green hydrogen. In cohesion with other projects we are constructing a European wide H2 highway collaborating and sharing research, results, and ensuring all can reap the benefits of a zero-carbon energy system.
The project is successfully
- Empowering communities to implement hydrogen-based energy matrixes to sustainably satisfy their energetic demand specifically in meeting their public transport mobility needs powered by Green H2
- Stimulating the uptake of renewable hydrogen-based technologies by successfully running 3 demonstration facilities in Northern Ireland wind to H2, Germany solar to H2 and Scotland Bio to H2
- Establishing a strong group of energy stakeholders – the Community Hydrogen Fourm (CH2F) devoted to, through the use of hydrogen, “sustainabilise” the energy matrix of the NWE region.
Based on the pilot plants; integrated technical and financial simulation models have been developed and implemented. These models form the Decision Support Tool that provides a roadmap for communities to transition to renewable, hydrogen-based energy matrixes. The ultimate goal of the project is, through the combination of sources and forms of demand, to lead NWE’s road to sustainability while granting hydrogen its position as a commercially viable energy medium for the future.
Green H2 generated from renewable energy is fuelling the European energy revolution and creating new business models, opportunities, reach and control. GenComm is highlighting how Hydrogen is decoupling the European Energy network; we are on the cusp of an energy transition that will revolutionise the energy networks, as we know them. European Communities, especially in remote areas, face multiple challenges to become energy secure and sustainable. Growth in electricity from renewable sources is stalling due to intermittency, grid restrictions, curtailment, and high costs. Sustainable energy to supply the transport sector and heating demand are even further underexploited. GenComm enables CO2 efficient implementation of Green H2 in regional transport, energy networks and industrial use.
The project also demonstrates the optimisation of Green Hydrogen (Green H2) to be SMART Hydrogen (SMART H2). Smart Hydrogen has created a hydrogen value chain that is optimal in technical performance, financial revenues and reduced environmental impact.
5: Depending on the answer, what role does or will smart hydrogen play?
What efficiencies or other benefits is it adding to the mix?
Hydrogen based energy systems can build bridges to a green energy future, one where communities on the periphery of Europe can address their energy vulnerability and build a secure energy future. However planning a cost effective and efficient transition is hugely complex. The very large capital and human investments implied will require many years before coming to fruition. However, we must begin now to explore this path to a more sustainable future.
Hydrogen and electricity also allow flexibility in balancing centralised and decentralised power, based on managed, intelligent grids, and power for remote locations (e.g. island, and mountain sites). Decentralised power is attractive both to ensure power quality to meet specific customer needs, as well as reducing exposure to terrorist attack. The ability to store hydrogen more easily than electricity can help with load levelling and in balancing the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources. Hydrogen is also one of the few energy carriers that enables renewable energy sources to be introduced into transport systems.
Europe is recognising that hydrogen and fuel cells will be core technologies for the 21st century and be the catalyst for economic growth and sustainable prosperity. There is growing, strong investment and industrial activity in the hydrogen and fuel cell arena in these technologies, driving the transition to hydrogen. For Europe to compete and become a leading world player in the hydrogen sector, it has to intensify its efforts and create a favourable business development environment. This energy environment will be a bonus to all, especially peripheral communities where they can use this as a foundation for stability and growth.
We have begun to witness this new EU stance when the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated on the 16th March 2021 at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021
'with NextGenerationEU, we will invest in clean hydrogen as never before. Clean hydrogen is a perfect means towards our goal of climate neutrality. ‘
SMARTH2 has been specifically designed to challenge the current policy and market shifts from fossil fuels and non-sustainable energy carriers to be replaced by Smart green fuels. SMARTH2 response to these shifts is to develop sustainable hydrogen energy systems, where the hydrogen is used as a green fuel for the transport and industry sectors.
SMARTH2 aims to resolve grid constrained, renewable energy deployment issues, greening the fuelling infrastructure, creating and demonstrating the appropriate environments and setup required to utilise the excess/curtailed wind energy, transforming and storing it as a Hydrogen Gas and then transporting this gas to centre hubs, which is used to fuel Zero emission vehicles including buses and trucks and to empower industry.
SMARTH2 will develop H2 hubs and couple the renewable energy, transport and industry sectors resulting in increased renewable energy generation and productivity and directly reducing GHG gases within the NWE.
6: The end product of the pilot projects will be the creation of models and a decision support tool to help communities transition to renewables and hydrogen. Could you describe the tool in a little more detail and who will use it?
GenComm seeks to maximise the use of Green Hydrogen as an energy vector to GENerate energy secure COMMunities. These Communities face multiple challenges to become energy secure, sustainable and assure future growth. Energy from renewable sources is stalling due to intermittency, grid restrictions, curtailment, and high costs. GENCOMM strives to address these issues by developing a sustainable, renewable community-scaled, H2 based, energy model based on the results of 3 GenComm pilot plants using local renewable sources to supply electricity, heating and transportation fuels.
GenComm has demonstrated how Hydrogen as an energy carrier could mitigate these challenges by acting as a buffer between energy demand and supply, while enabling flexibility between the potential energetic and non-energetic uses of renewable energy. GenComm has demonstrated to stakeholder authorities and agencies how Green H2 can achieve this potential and overcome challenges while maintaining the highest safety standards.
Now in 2021 Europe finds itself in the middle of a H2 energy revolution –where all of Europe must be informed, assisted and enabled to continue the transition from fossil fuels to a net zero C02 destination. Hydrogen is no longer an ’if and why’ it is now ‘when and how,’ a direct result of the vision of Interreg NWE and others key stakeholders.
Through the creation of a techno-economic model and Decision Support Tool (DST) GenComm is changing the energy landscape of NWE. It is working with partners and authorities to technically and financially optimise the commercialisation of renewable hydrogen. As the EU green energy revolution continues, authorities and agencies need continued information and key data analytics outputs to support and encourage confidence their green energy planning. Thus, a dynamic and collaborative decision support tool involving regional stakeholders is one aspect of a regional empowerment strategy for communities to play an active role in energy transition.
The Enabling Support Tool (EST) builds upon the DST and is a user-friendly online tool that is used for proactive planning of green Hydrogen based public transport. The EST will inform, empower and enable policy makers, authorities and transport bodies to get the optimal solution for a given green H2 demand based on existing local structures.
By performing a technical and operational optimisation of electrolysers to maximise H2 production and adapt it to the expected demand, the EST allows the users to enter the quantities of H2 they need or aim for, and the tool shows how, where and in which way the quantities can be provided most efficiently using renewable energies. The EST facilitates policy makers, authorities and transport planners to plan, develop and deploy tailor-made concepts for individual public transport solutions based on green H2. The energy model on which the EST is based enables users to plan and implement their own H2 based energy matrix in the best possible way in terms of efficiency and resource conservation. The EST is an interactive public accessible tool within the Community Hydrogen Forum (CH2F) portal that will enable users outside the pilot regions involved to plan and develop H2-based public transport solutions, including the preparation of business plans, the exploration of market opportunities and techno-economic assessments. The EST also validates how the identified solution option can be connected to the existing infrastructure and thus forms the basis of a local, all-inclusive, "closed-cycle" Green H2 economy in public transport. By implementing the identified optimal solution, a reduction of CO2 emissions or a decarbonisation of the transport sector will be achieved, which can be implemented efficiently and economically on the basis of regeneratively produced H2. Empowering, informing and assisting authorities to utilise Green H2 as an energy carrier to meet PT requirements will provide sustainable benefits that can be maximised across NWE.
In helping Europe to achieve the 2050 climate neutrality goals we must enable users to validate P2X H2 technologies that can be deployed in individual scenarios and to develop long-term strategies for the advancement in adoption of hydrogen technologies. A key output for this is the H2 Enabling Support Tool ( A H2 Sat Nav) enabling the mapping of Energy Navigation Routes for the transition of the EU energy system from fossil fuel dependence to green destination.
7: How long will it take for hydrogen to become a commercially viable energy source?
The European Commission have set the target of climate neutrality by 2050. We must optimise Hydrogen to maximise green energy outputs and accelerate the transition to net zero by 2050. Investigating how we can develop innovative sector coupling technologies and strategies, new energy models to achieve widespread use of secure renewable energy supply and how the exploitation and implementation of existing and new technologies with industry stakeholders/customers provides commercial confidence.
The development of an efficient and effective hydrogen ecosystem offers significant opportunities for Europe especially in targeting those hard to decarbonise sectors. Hydrogen can facilitate the integration of additional renewable energy into our energy system, increasing security of supply and easing system-wide pressures on the electricity network.
Hydrogen will play a key role in the final energy mix of a future net-zero emission Europe. We must optimise the use of Hydrogen to accelerate the journey to achieving the goal of net zero and examine how we can optimise Hydrogen production, storage and use to maximise green energy outputs and accelerate the transition to net zero. In achieving a just transition to net zero we must develop innovative sector coupling technologies and strategies, new energy models to achieve widespread use of secure renewable energy supply and how the implementation of existing and new technologies with industry stakeholders/customers provides commercial confidence.
Hydrogen is now a fundamental pillar of energy policy of the EU as it transitions to a net zero future, it is the catalyst driving Europe’s energy transition. Long heralded as an alternative to fossil fuels Hydrogen faces challenges in helping solve the our dirtiest energy problems. Optimising the Hydrogen journey by fortifying the hydrogen supply chain, production, storage and use for existing and new developing markets is key to creating a successful hydrogen Europe.
It is a key component of the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration and has been included in the TEN-E framework. To unlock hydrogen’s benefits the EU hydrogen strategy targets 6 GW of electrolyser by 2024 and 40 GW by 2040, with heavy-duty transport identified as a key sector. The EU energy integration strategy recognises the hierarchy of energy efficiency, electrification and then the use of renewable energy specifically green hydrogen. Member states are recognising this and providing support programmes for hydrogen.
- What regulatory help will you need to get it there? And is there a variability in what needs to be done, country by country?
It’s been a long way until now to make the case for hydrogen, and still, a long way to go remains, especially for countries in Europe that have to embrace the hydrogen potential. But hydrogen energy cannot be hidden under the carpet anymore. It is clear for most decision makers, in the energy sector as well as in the transport sector, that hydrogen will definitely play a very important, and very strategic role in the energy transition.
How can we expedite the realization of a zero-emission hydrogen energy society, which will help address global climate challenges for future generations.
Decisive action by governments is critical to unlock growth for low-carbon hydrogen. Further efforts from all governments including introducing regulatory supports are needed to reduce costs and encourage wider use across sectors.
At the recent COP26 event in Scotland we called on all governments to build a supporting regulatory and legislative structure to stimulate, support and drive the low carbon sector with Green H2 as the key energy vector.
Green H2 is key in helping meet climate goals, decision makers must introduce strategies to attract investment and facilitate deployment of hydrogen technologies while also creating demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels.
International Energy Authority (IEA) Director Faith Birol stated on October 2021 "Governments need to take rapid actions to lower the barriers that are holding low-carbon hydrogen back from faster growth, which will be important if the world is to have a chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050."
The time is ripe to tap into hydrogen’s potential contribution to a sustainable energy system however greater public authority action is needed to accelerate the development, deployment and use of Green H2 as a low carbon replacement for fossil fuel use. Governments need to scale up their ambitions and plans and stimulate demand. The focus of most government policies is on producing low-carbon hydrogen but this focus needs to be broadened to stimulate demand. If we are to get beyond the current ‘chicken and egg’ situation boosting the role of low-carbon hydrogen in clean energy transitions must also become a government priority. Increased and widespread enactment of current Governments hydrogen plans would unlock more global hydrogen projects to scale up hydrogen demand. Governments actions worldwide are needed to enable our energy transition to turn the corner ang get onto the Green H2 Highway to net zero.