Temporal regulation of renewable supply for electrolytic hydrogen

Abstract

Electrolytic hydrogen produced using renewable electricity can help lower carbon dioxide emissions in sectors where feedstocks, reducing agents, dense fuels or high temperatures are required. This study investigates the implications of various standards being proposed to certify that the grid electricity used is renewable. Using an energy system model, we compare electricity procurement strategies to meet a constant hydrogen demand for selected European countries in 2025 and 2030. We compare cases where no additional renewable generators are procured with cases where the electrolyser demand is matched to additional supply from local renewable generators on an annual, monthly or hourly basis. We show that local additionality is required to guarantee low emissions. For the annually and monthly matched case, we demonstrate that baseload operation of the electrolysis leads to using fossil-fuelled generation from the grid for some hours, resulting in higher emissions than the case without hydrogen demand. In the hourly matched case, hydrogen production does not increase system-level emissions, but baseload operation results in high costs for providing constant supply if only wind, solar and short-term battery storage are available. Flexible operation or buffering hydrogen with storage, either in steel tanks or underground caverns, reduces the cost penalty of hourly versus annual matching to 7–8%.