New research highlights 'challenging nature' of vested interests in the energy transition

August 19, 2020

New research highlights 'challenging nature' of vested interests in the energy transition

Pioneering new research has highlighted some of the political difficulties with the UK's energy transition, in particular around vested fossil fuel interests.

The research, by Dr Richard Lowes and Dr Bridget Woodman from the University of Exeter's Energy Policy Group, found that those with existing interests around fossil fuel heat were overselling the idea of converting the UK's existing gas infrastructure to run on low carbon gases such as hydrogen.

This overselling comes at the expense of known, low- carbon heating options.

The research is published in the international peer reviewed journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions and the project formed part of the UK Energy Research Centre.

In order to reach goals for net-zero emissions for heating, which makes up around a fifth of UK emissions, huge changes are required to the way that homes and buildings are heated.

The deployment of energy efficiency measures and a move from oil and fossil gas towards the use of heat pumps and heat networks which rely on low carbon electricity has been seen as vital.

The promotion of hydrogen was often in the form of political lobbying and through the production of industry funded reports and research and has been taking place at the same time that the idea of using hydrogen for heat has rapidly risen up the policy agenda.

The research highlights a concern that if the political lobbying by incumbents affects the policy process and slows down the deployment of known low carbon heat options, the UK's climate change goals are at risk of being missed.

Dr Richard Lowes, lead author of the article explained: 'Getting to a sustainable heat system demands rapid and major interventions, it is a huge challenge and there is simply no time for delay.

"During the course of the research we were surprised how rapidly the idea of hydrogen emerged and how strongly it was being promoted by various interests in the heating industry. Over the course of the project, we have also seen similar responses by industrial interests in responses to proposals in the United States.

"We are in no doubt that decarbonising the heat sector will be extremely difficult but it is possible using known technologies. The idea that the gas grid can simply be switched to run on hydrogen remains deeply uncertain from both a cost and technical perspective.

"Hence, we suggest in the paper that: 'Due to the uncertainties associated with hydrogen, in the short term, deployment of known low carbon heating technologies should be at a rate commensurate with the 2050 net-zero target with the expectation that low carbon gas including hydrogen may not prove viable at scale''
Heating in Great Britain: An incumbent discourse coalition resists an electrifying future is authored by Richard Lowes, and Bridget Woodman from the University of Exeter and Jamie Speirs from the Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London.

University of Exeter

Related Hydrogen Articles from Brightsurf:

Solar hydrogen: let's consider the stability of photoelectrodes
As part of an international collaboration, a team at the HZB has examined the corrosion processes of high-quality BiVO4 photoelectrodes using different state-of-the-art characterisation methods.

Hydrogen vehicles might soon become the global norm
Roughly one billion cars and trucks zoom about the world's roadways.

Hydrogen economy with mass production of high-purity hydrogen from ammonia
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has made an announcement about the technology to extract high-purity hydrogen from ammonia and generate electric power in conjunction with a fuel cell developed by a team led by Young Suk Jo and Chang Won Yoon from the Center for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research.

Superconductivity: It's hydrogen's fault
Last summer, it was discovered that there are promising superconductors in a special class of materials, the so-called nickelates.

Hydrogen energy at the root of life
A team of international researchers in Germany, France and Japan is making progress on answering the question of the origin of life.

Hydrogen alarm for remote hydrogen leak detection
Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with the University of Chemistry and Technology of Prague proposed new sensors based on widely available optical fiber to ensure accurate detection of hydrogen molecules in the air.

Preparing for the hydrogen economy
In a world first, University of Sydney researchers have found evidence of how hydrogen causes embrittlement of steels.

Hydrogen boride nanosheets: A promising material for hydrogen carrier
Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of Tsukuba, and colleagues in Japan report a promising hydrogen carrier in the form of hydrogen boride nanosheets.

World's fastest hydrogen sensor could pave the way for clean hydrogen energy
Hydrogen is a clean and renewable energy carrier that can power vehicles, with water as the only emission.

Chemical hydrogen storage system
Hydrogen is a highly attractive, but also highly explosive energy carrier, which requires safe, lightweight and cheap storage as well as transportation systems.

Read More: Hydrogen News and Hydrogen Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to