How the Scottish Government can take their decarbonisation ambition to the next level
Green hydrogen presents the SNP with an opportunity to build on their strong decarbonisation track record.
Next week, Party Conference season will head north of the border, as the Scottish National Party (SNP) meet in Aberdeen.
The party gathers at a time of rising bills and consumer costs across Scotland. The energy price guarantee – introduced UK-wide earlier this year – is only a short-term a safety net for consumers.
Even with the new measures, 72% of Scottish households are at risk of falling into fuel poverty by 2023. Global energy markets remain volatile, and the gas price could rise further still – at a constant risk of rising prices for consumers.
For the Scottish Government, continued investment in clean, home-grown, secure, energy is as much about protecting consumers as it is the environment – while simultaneously prioritising new industry, jobs and skills for people and places across Scotland.
To date, the SNP’s own ambition on clean growth is strong. The current Energy Strategy commits to 17GW of renewable capacity by 2030 to try and get to net zero by 2045.
But the power sector can’t achieve decarbonisation all by itself. Especially true when buildings account for up to a fifth of emissions in Scotland. The decarbonisation of home heating is a significant challenge for us all to overcome. The Scottish Government’s own Heat in Buildings Strategy has set out that by 2045 ‘almost all’ homes in Scotland ‘must be using a zero emissions system’.
To realise this transition, customers will need to be brought into and along with the journey. It is, after all, their homes we are talking about.
Top down, imposed, solutions will fall short – especially in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
At SGN, we have conducted our own research, which shows that customers are clear about their desire to move to zero-carbon heading. But they want to retain the control, flexibility, and choice that they have right now. And – perhaps unsurprisingly in the current context – cost is a concern. The higher the cost, the lower the support for change.
This is what we are calling the ‘action gap’. Working with both the Scottish Government and consumers, we want to fill this gap. We can do this, by increasing momentum on the existing pathway to decarbonised home heating. Doing this means accounting for all the clean technologies available to us. One such technology where Scotland can take the lead is green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is produced when a renewable-powered electrolyser is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. That way, it can link up with Scotland’s rapid and world-leading decarbonisation across the power sector. New green energy projects, like Scotland’s largest wind farm, Neart Na Gaoith - which will come online in 2024 and generate 450 MW of renewable energy – are a case point.
The Scottish Government has already expressed its desire to see ‘as much renewable hydrogen in the system as possible’. To help realise this opportunity, the ongoing Review of Electricity Market Arrangements (recently published by the UK Government), should be used to break the link between gas and electricity prices. This is a chance to drive down the long-term electricity price, ensure cost reductions are passed onto customers, and facilitate a pathway to abundant green hydrogen generation.
For the Scottish Government, the next big opportunity to support home heating decarbonisation is the Hydrogen Action Plan, which is due to be published later this year. A key focus of the Plan should be to pave the way towards an increased role for green hydrogen in heating homes and other vital sectors. Such a pathway could build on the Scottish Government’s own ambition to date.
At a time when it is right to double down on ambitions to get to net zero, not least to cut consumer costs as quickly as possible, we must champion those technologies that can make an immediate difference.
Green hydrogen can do just that by using existing infrastructure, whilst also providing an opportunity for the Scottish Government to continue its world-leading ambition in tackling climate change – for the benefit of consumers, clean growth, and Scotland’s energy security for years to come.
SGN will be at the SNP Conference in Aberdeen between Saturday 8th and Monday 10th October.
SGN will host a Fringe Event with Richard Lochhead, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, and leading industry experts. This will focus on the ‘Future of Home Heating: Prioritising Consumers Through the Energy Transition’.
The fringe will take place between 12:30-1:30pm on Monday 10th October.
Further information can be found in the SNP Conference Fringe Guide.
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