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Hydrogen Energy Research Programme

Hydrogen has the potential to act as a cost-effective, low-carbon energy carrier for use as a transport fuel.

Moreover, several other important uses of hydrogen are receiving increasing attention including power-to-gas (to make use of excess electricity generation from intermittent technologies such as wind turbines) and the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise gas supplied from the gas networks. UCL is leading efforts to better understand the potential contribution of hydrogen in these areas.

We use a variety of approaches to understand the possible implications of moving towards the widespread use of hydrogen, and to understand the drivers, barriers and policy instruments that are relevant for a possible hydrogen transition. Our research has focused on two major themes:

  1. Energy systems and scenarios
  2. Innovation and technological change

Our projects include:

  • Core member of the EPSRC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Hub (H2FC Hub).
  • Leading the EPRSC Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System (HYVE) project.
  • Leading the H2FC Hub Green Hydrogen Standard project.
  • Leading the publication of the first H2FC Hub White Paper on the potential for H2FC technologies to contribute to low-carbon heating.
  • Contributing to the second H2FC Hub White Paper on the implications of H2FC technologies for UK energy security.

Projects

The team has been involved in a series of projects funded by the EPSRC’s ‘Supergen’ programme.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub

The team is a member of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub, which will run from 2012-2017, along with collaborating institutions (Imperial College, University of Birmingham, University of Bath; University of St. Andrews; Newcastle University; University of Ulster). The UCL team is the lead institution on socio-economic package of work under the hub. For this work, the team is developing a new energy systems model, UKTM-UCL, and is using it to understand the potential roles for hydrogen inter-seasonal energy storage, and possible transition pathways for hydrogen energy for the transport sector.

Outputs and findings will be uploaded to the ‘outputs’ page as the project progresses.

Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System (HYVE)

The HYVE (Hydrogen's Value in the Energy System) project aims to find out how hydrogen might contribute to a transition to a low carbon economy.

We are estimating the potential demand for hydrogen in transport, industry, electricity and heat markets.  We are also examining how hydrogen might be produced and supplied.

At the end of the project, we will have a much clearer idea about how a transition to a hydrogen-fuelled economy could be brought about.

Green Hydrogen Standard

The Green Hydrogen Standard project is considering how to define a green hydrogen standard for the UK and how this might be used in policy instruments in the future. It is working closely with the government–industry Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

H2FC Hub White Papers

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen Hub is producing a series of evidence-based white papers to inform key stakeholders, especially policy makers, of the roles and potential benefits of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

UCL led the production of the first White Paper, on the potential contribution of hydrogen and fuel cells for heating.

We are also partners in the second forthcoming White Paper on the implications of hydrogen and fuel cells for UK energy security.  The University of Birmingham are leading that project.

The UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium

UCL was a partner of the both phases (2002-2012) of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UKSHEC), which was funded by the EPSRC Supergen Programme.

This project explored the prospects for hydrogen energy in the UK. We used a number of complementary approaches:

  • Qualitative scenarios, drawing on stakeholder input, theoretical insights from innovation studies, and historical analogies.
  • Quantitative modelling of UK hydrogen energy scenarios, using the UK MARKAL model to explore the implications for hydrogen of various assumptions about technology, behaviour and infrastructure development.
  • Quantitative modelling of global hydrogen innovation, through use of endogenous technology learning in the global TIAM-UCL model.

Outputs

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supergen hub

Journal papers, books and book chapters

Working papers

UKSHEC Phase II (2007-2012)

Journal papers, books and book chapters

  • McDowall (submitted) Validating hydrogen futures with lessons from the past. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
  • Agnolucci and McDowall (submitted) Designing future hydrogen infrastructure: insights from analysis at different spatial scales. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.
  • McDowall (2012) Technology roadmaps for transition management: the case of hydrogen energy. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 79 (3): 530–542. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2011.10.002
  • Ekins (2010). The hydrogen economy: economic and social challenges. Earthscan. (edited volume drawing principally on UKSHEC work).
  • Hughes, N. And Agnolucci, P. (in press) Hydrogen Economics and Policy (Chapter 4.17), in Comprehensive Renewable Energy, Elsevier.
  • Eames & McDowall (2010) Sustainability, foresight and contested futures: Exploring visions and pathways in the transition to a hydrogen economy. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 22 (6), pp. 671-692.
  • Ekins & Hughes (2010) Prospects for a hydrogen economy (2): Hydrogen transitions. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Volume 22, Issue 1 January 2010 , pages 1 - 17
  • Ekins & Hughes (2009) Prospects for a hydrogen economy (1): Hydrogen futures. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Volume 21, Issue 7 October 2009, pages 783 – 803

Working papers

Conference papers, posters and presentations

  • Dodds and McDowall (2012) The future of the natural gas pipeline system in the UK. International Energy Workshop, June 19-29, Cape Town. (Paper and presentation). Available at: http://iew2012.odandbrown.co.uk/
  • Anandarajah (2012) "Economics of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: Results from the 16 Region TIAM-UCL global energy system model". AIT Energy Field, Bangkok, Thailand. (Invited lecture)
  • McDowall (2012) Hydrogen transitions in the UK: critical uncertainties and possible decision points. World Hydrogen Energy Conference, June 4-8, Toronto. (Paper and presentation).
  • Dodds and McDowall (2012) Hydrogen transitions in the UK: An economic appraisal from an energy systems perspective. World Hydrogen Energy Conference, June 4-8, Toronto. (POSTER)
  • Anandarajah, McDowall, Dodds and Ekins (2012) Economics of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: A long–term perspective at the global level. World Hydrogen Energy Conference, June 4-8, Toronto. (POSTER)
  • McDowall, Baxter and Eames (2012) Scenarios, backcasts, forecasts and visions of a hydrogen economy: revisiting the hydrogen futures literature. World Hydrogen Energy Conference, June 4-8, Toronto. (POSTER)
  • McDowall and Anandarajah (2012) Vehicle technology choice for a low-carbon future: a global energy system perspective. Smart Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Conference, Birmingham, March 29th. (Presentation only)
  • Anandarajah, McDowall, Dodds and Ekins, (2011) Implications of global technology learning in hydrogen: a long-term perspective. World Hydrogen Technologies Conference, Glasgow. (Paper and presentation)
  • McDowall and Ekins (2011) The global hydrogen innovation system: can it deliver a hydrogen economy? World Hydrogen Technologies Conference, Glasgow. (Paper and Presentation)
  • Ekins, Anandarajah, McDowall and Usher (2011) Transport 2050: Fuels, technologies, behaviours. 34th IAEE Conference, June 19-23, Stockholm (Presentation only).
  • Anandarajah, McDowall and Dodds (2011) Economics of hydrogen: applying global technology learning in TIAM-UCL. IEA-ETSAP Semi-Annual Workshop, July 9th, Stanford. (Presentation only)
  • McDowall and Usher (2011) Energy system modelling of UK hydrogen futures. Poster presented at the UKSHEC International Symposium and Showcase, April 13th-15th, Birmingham. (POSTER)
  • Ekins (2011) Hydrogen Energy: realising the potential. Plenary presentation at the UKSHEC International Symposium and Showcase, April 13th-15th, Birmingham. (Presentation only)
  • McDowall & Tomei (2010) Up the garden path: roadmapping the transition to a low-carbon future. STEPS conference, September 23rd, Brighton. (Presentation only)
  • McDowall (2010) Roadmaps, transition management and the governance of hydrogen energy. International Conference on Tentative Governance in Emerging Science and Technology. October 28th, Twente, Netherlands. (Presentation and extended abstract)
  • Hughes, N. (2009) Sociotechnical systems, branching points, pathways and implications for hydrogen infrastructure. Presentation to Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technology Knowledge Transfer Network, 1 day event, ‘Developing a UK Hydrogen Infrastructure’, 14th July, 2009 (Invited, presentation only).

UKSHEC Phase I (2003-2007)

Many of the UCL team worked on the first phase of UKSHEC, at the Policy Studies Institute. Working papers and publications from this first phase of work can be found at the PSI website, at www.psi.org.uk/ukshec/publications.htm

Impact

The UCL team works closely with stakeholders in government and industry in all of our projects:

  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Committee on Climate Change and a number of gas companies are members of the HYVE Project Advisory Board.
  • The H2FC Hub White Papers are specifically targeted at policy makers. DECC and the H2FC industry had a strong representation at the launch of the first White Paper.
  • The Green Hydrogen Standard project is working closely with the government–industry Green Hydrogen Standard Working Group, which is facilitated by DECC.
  • The UKTM-UCL energy system model being partly developed by the H2FC Hub will be used to inform the Government's 5th Carbon Budget report.
  • The UCL team ran a UKERC-funded workshop in 2013 on the future of the gas networks, which included 40 attendees from government and industry.

Beyond these direct links with policymakers, our research directly feeds into existing UCL energy system models, which play an important role informing UK policymakers (e.g. providing analytic support to energy reviews and white papers, and to carbon budget processes). The comprehensive research into hydrogen systems over the last decade at UCL is reflected in the representation of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the UKTM-UCL energy system model of the UK and the global TIAM-UCL model (e.g. through better representation of transport technologies, hydrogen and natural gas infrastructures, and hydrogen production technologies). This means that our research will continue to be used in our contributions to major policy processes.

These projects have built on the links with government stakeholders that were developed during the UKSHEC project.  For example, we provided advice and data to the DECC Hydrogen Action Plan process in 2010, and the DECC 2050 Pathways team in 2011.

hydrogen economy transport