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Driving the integration of hydrogen into the whole energy system

Published on: 12 July 2023

Newcastle University is to lead a research hub that will help to inform and support the UK’s strategy for the Integration of the Hydrogen Economy.

The research hub involves multidisciplinary teams tackling the systems integration challenges to the wider use of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels in the UK. This will focus on the role of these fuels in the net zero transition in providing connectivity and flexibility across the energy system. The hub is funded by the Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is providing provide £10m over the next 5 years.

Professor Sara Walker, of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering will lead the hub. Sara Walker is Professor of Energy and Director for the Newcastle University Centre of Research Excellence in Energy. The hub brings together Newcastle University with partners at Cardiff, Northumbria, Glasgow, Birmingham, Exeter, Imperial, Manchester, Queen’s University Belfast, UCL, and Warwick Universities.

Professor Walker said: “I am delighted to lead this hub, along with an excellent team of colleagues across the UK. At Newcastle University, our world-leading research on energy systems integration is now to be applied to the question of the role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

"Hydrogen is a highly versatile energy vector, suitable for use in many hard-to-decarbonise sectors where other energy vectors, such as electricity, are not suitable. Our focus in this research hub is to identify those sectors best suited to hydrogen, to maximise the value it can bring to the net zero journey.

"The climate emergency gives us an urgent imperative to answer this question and support Government, industry and the public sector in our collective transition to net zero.”

The HI-ACT team

A future equitable energy system

In April 2022, Professor Sara Walker, along with Professor David Flynn from University of Glasgow and Professor Jianzhong Wu from Cardiff University, were successful in securing £615k for six months to investigate and prioritise hydrogen integration challenges with stakeholders.

During the six-months, the project had 93 interactions through focus groups and 1:1 meetings, 63 attendees at two workshops and to date up to 135 responses to our citizen and industrial stakeholder surveys. This included engagement with 53 industries, 20 academic institutions, 12 governmental and regulatory bodies, nine energy research institutions/groups and four community energy agencies representative of the UK home nations. Lastly, during this time, the consortia grew to include 27 academics from 10 universities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as over 40 project partners.

The research Hub, named Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) will ensure hydrogen is appropriately integrated in a future equitable energy system, through holistic multi-disciplinary research which address integration challenges. HI-ACT will achieve this through a fundamental shift in critical analysis of the role of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels (HALF) in the context of the overall energy landscape.

HI-ACT will aim to address the following objectives:

  • To examine the role, and value, of hydrogen in a net-zero transition
  • To identify the contribution which hydrogen can make to energy security and resilience
  • To evaluate trade-offs in a whole energy system with hydrogen
  • To explore the place-based contributions of hydrogen to local energy systems

HI-ACT will establish a sustainable national Hub of excellence, catalysing world leading academic research, industrial innovators, regulators, communities, and government agencies into an ecosystem focused on the integration of hydrogen into the whole energy system. The Hub will showcase the UK as a world leader in a scalable hydrogen economy, through advances in knowledge, technical capabilities, planning and standards. We will also champion the benefits of collaboration, and lead in mentoring the next generation of energy research leaders.

To find out more about the HI-ACT Hub please visit their website, follow them on twitter [@HIACT_] and or get in touch directly

This work is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)/Engineering and Physical Sciences Council (EPSRC).


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