Energy storage potential or just hot air?

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The Institute of Mechanical Engineers has called for an upgrade to the UK’s gas transmission system so hydrogen levels of up to 20% can be accommodated, potentially allowing storage of electricity, converted to hydrogen through electrolysis.

The recommendation was published in the institute’s recent report – ‘Energy from Gas: Taking a Whole System Approach’ – along with a number of measures to support developing hydrogen as an energy source.

Other enabling measures suggested include:

  • Setting up a cross-industry forum focused on the current key energy sectors (nuclear, renewable and gas) to help push forward the generation and storage of hydrogen across the energy consuming areas such as heat, transport, electricity generation and industry.
  • A government sponsored study to establish the sustainability of materials being used for lithium ion batteries compared to electricity to gas and fuel cell technologies for energy storage, and to identify the most appropriate long term technologies.

The institute suggests hydrogen could then be used in many areas of the energy system including fuel, transport, feedstock for industries such as ammonia and plastics production and of course re-converted back to electricity, all of which could significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Energy expert analysis

“Currently battery storage, particularly lithium ion technology, seems to be gaining the attention of the government and the transport sector, but the idea of using hydrogen generated from electricity as an energy storage medium, or as an alternative and essential ‘clean’ fuel, is interesting. Certainly, a thorough comparative examination of the various options for electricity storage, including sustainability, would be a helpful step for long term decision making in this developing market.” Alastair Fells MEI, Incorporated Eng, PG Dip Fuel Tech, BSc Hons

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