Hydrogen is a cornerstone in unlocking the full offshore wind potential the North Sea offers
A new report by the World Energy Council the Netherlands (WEC) underpins once again that the North Sea will play a crucial role in the energy transition of North West Europe. The call for clean energy in Europe is increasing, and the North Sea will be crucial in the search for efficient routes that enable the large scale energy transition required to meet the Paris goals.
“The past years have seen a great focus on offshore wind generation on the North Sea and capacity is rapidly increasing”, according to WEC-chairman Jeroen van Hoof. “However, various pathways to bring the generated power to the end consumer efficiently now urgently need to be started. This urgency is driven not only by the timelines set out by the Paris Agreement, but also to address the system issues like storage requirements and how to enable the decarbonisation of the huge energy consumption of both Industry- and Transportation segment concentrated around our main ports. Thus ultimately, the success of offshore wind and other renewables on the North Sea, depends on this.”
The report ‘Bringing North Sea Energy Ashore Efficiently’ takes the rapidly increasing offshore wind capacity on the North Sea as a starting point, coupled with demand on shore, and shows that several solutions and technologies need to be developed in order to bring the energy to the end consumer in the most efficient way, and thus ultimately to the lowest cost to the consumer.
The study looks at two stylised pathways – the electrons (power) pathway and the molecules pathway, with a specific focus on H2 (Hydrogen) generation (power-to-gas) – and it shows that a combination of both will be needed if we are to meet the challenges of climate change in the future. The report shows that in order to create an affordable and reliable energy supply in North West Europe, a hybrid system of (green) power and (green) hydrogen is needed.
“While the costs of energy in the North Sea are enormous, the financial and social returns on investment are also very large’, says chief economist Jan Willem Velthuijsen of PwC. “According to our modelling, the hydrogen future in 2030 would require capex investments in the order of €5-7.5 billion up to 2030 and in the order of €27-37 billion up to 2050. The majority of this investment is in electrolysis capacity. The resulting amount of energy would be sufficient to cover around 12.5% of the energy demand in North Sea countries’ industrial sectors in 2050.”
Compared to the current average CO2 emissions, such a shift to green hydrogen would represent approximately 32 megaton in CO2 savings annually when everything is built. Due to the large-scale nature of the investments needed, international cooperation will be necessary in order to make use of the full potential of the North Sea. Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Norway are all in scope of this study.
Some key take-aways from the report are:
If the current generation can shape the energy developed on the North Sea, the next generation will be able to enjoy the fruits of a cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy supply than ours.
In addition, the next European generation can make use of technology know-how accumulated when developing these systems that will likely also be exportable to the rest of the world.
Defining the role of the public and the private sectors is important. All that governments should do is to define goals around sustainability, and clean-up any counter-productive regulation. Private market parties will then use their creativity and skills to develop the right affordable technical and economic solutions.
The World Energy Council is the principal impartial network of leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all.
The following report is published by the World Energy Council, the Netherlands in collaboration with project partners Akzo Nobel, Port of Amsterdam, Port of Rotterdam, PwC, Rabobank, Siemens, Shell, TenneT, TNO and Vopak, and with contributions from the World Energy Council in the United Kingdom and Germany.