We need to enable emissions to reduce at a rate that limits global warming to be well below 2 degrees celcius, whilst developing the infrastructure to minimise reliance on abated fossil fuels beyond 2050.
Renewables to Displace Fossil Fuels
Welsh industry is using approximately 100 TWh per year of fossil fuels (mainly natural gas and coal) to produce goods and services for its customers.
To reach Net Zero, this needs to be replaced with at least 25 GW of energy from renewable sources, e.g. wind and solar power, to either directly electrify processes or indirectly through the production of green hydrogen.
This is 10 times the currently installed renewable generation capacity in Wales (2.5 GW) and therefore it will take decades rather than years to construct this level of renewable energy generation and associated electricity & hydrogen infrastructure.
Wales is in the fortunate position, similar to other parts of the UK, that is has large wind generation potential offshore, as well as onshore (exceeding 50GW).
This is more than enough to meet the energy demand of Wales (including industry), in the long term with access to an abundant source of renewable, cost competitive energy.
Blue Hydrogen Production
The production of “Blue hydrogen” combines the technology to produce hydrogen from natural gas, with carbon capture and storage technology.
This form of abated fossil fuel use enables acceleration of the uptake of hydrogen as an energy vector, whilst renewable energy generation and the production of green hydrogen production capacity is growing.
This technology will not only deliver a faster industrial decarbonisation rate when compared to a pathway that is solely dependent renewable energy generation, but also provide resilience in the energy system on days when there is little wind and/or solar energy generation (also known as the “Dunkelflaute”).
Carbon Neutral Infrastructure
Infrastructure is the key to unlocking net zero. A resilient and suitably sized carbon neutral infrastructure to transport renewable electricity (zero scope 1 and 2 emissions) directly or indirectly as green hydrogen, from where it is generated, to where it is consumed, is vital.
It will retain industry in Wales and support their transition to net zero and provide an attractive investment environment for companies that currently don’t operate in Wales.
Carbon Capture, Storage & Shipping
To support the accelerated industrial decarbonisation and meet the legally binding targets, there is a need to capture, store and ship carbon emissions to “permanent” storage facilities. In the absence of a nearby storage location, the industries in South Wales will have to ship their carbon emissions to other UK carbon storage locations that are currently in development.
This will allow hard-to-abate sectors like steel, cement and other foundation industries, to commence their journey to Net Zero, while the renewable generation capacity is building to meet their energy demand in the long term, whilst continuing to operate in a globally competitive market.
This infrastructure will also allow carbon emissions to be captured from blue hydrogen production facilities (also sometimes referred to as pre-combustion carbon capture) and natural gas fired power stations (post combustion carbon capture), that provide a vital role to maintain energy system resilience.
Investment in plant and processes that will allow industrial energy intensive processes to switch from natural gas to hydrogen (fuel switching), electrify and/or capture the carbon emissions, is fully dependant on the presence of a low carbon infrastructure (electricity grid, new hydrogen infrastructure and CO2 shipping).
Deliver 2030 & 2040 Targets
The UK & Welsh Government have set interim, legally binding targets to support the goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C.
A balanced, pragmatic dual pathway which uses the full arsenal of low carbon energy sources and technologies available, combining the expansion of renewable energy sources in the long term, with other low carbon technologies (e.g. blue hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage) in the short and medium term, has the ability to deliver the pace of decarbonisation needed to meet these targets, whilst ensuring that the emissions aren’t “offshored” to other parts of the globe.