Environmental campaigners are demanding that the Scottish Government rethink their commitment to hydrogen technologies after a new report exposed their inefficiencies, soaring costs and the threat posed to renewable energy supplies.

The report, ‘Hydrogen’s role in Scotland’s climate journey’, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland found that 98% of global hydrogen production is from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel-derived ‘blue’ hydrogen is made using carbon capture and storage (CCS) but this technology was revealed to only be 60% effective, meaning huge amounts of climate changing pollution is released, critically undermining the key argument made by its proponents. Blue hydrogen is dependent on CCS technology that is in its infancy in Europe and has repeatedly failed to get off the ground in the UK.

The research showed that ‘green’ hydrogen, whilst lower carbon than fossil fuel derived hydrogen, has serious drawbacks such as the enormous levels of renewable energy required to produce it. If Scotland’s 2030 target was to be met by green hydrogen, it would require 80% of the country’s entire renewable energy supply – enough electricity for over 6 million homes.

Using hydrogen for heating our homes was found to be more expensive and less efficient than direct electrification through technologies like heat pumps. Similarly, powering transport with renewable energy directly is already much more efficient, cheaper, and more advanced commercially than deploying hydrogen in transport.

The campaigners are now calling on the Scottish Government to end any further public funding to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, and to prioritise electrification over hydrogen in crucial areas such as heating and transport.

The report as Scottish Government officials admitted that so called ‘negative emissions technology’ like CCS and hydrogen would not deliver this decade, leaving a huge gap in its plans to cut climate emissions.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Climate Campaigner Alex Lee said:

“This research must change the conversation around the role of hydrogen in Scotland’s climate efforts. The evidence clearly shows that hydrogen is either made from climate-wrecking fossil fuels or it becomes a huge drain on renewable energy supplies.

“The Scottish Government must end their support for the development of hydrogen from fossil fuels, which will only produce yet more climate pollution and give fossil fuel companies a chance to greenwash their image whilst they keep drilling new fields in the North Sea.

“Hydrogen from renewables is a high cost, low efficiency solution to our energy needs and the Scottish Government must urgently rethink their plans for its expansion. Whether it is in heating or transport, support for hydrogen looks like a losing bet when compared to direct electrification through technology like heat pumps and electric buses.

“By prioritising electrification over green hydrogen, the Scottish Government can better protect households from high costs and ensure renewables can clean up our energy system.”

Key findings from the report:

  • 98% of the global hydrogen production is from fossil fuels
  • Using green hydrogen to meet Scotland’s heating demand would require 180% more renewable energy than Scotland produces currently
  • 80% of current renewable energy supplies would be needed to create just 5GW of green hydrogen
  • Electric heat pumps may be 168-342% more efficient than hydrogen boilers
  • Hydrogen boilers may be 53-68% more expensive than electric heat pumps
  • Electric vehicles are more than twice as energy efficient than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • Adopting green hydrogen in industry would require nearly twice as much new renewable energy capacity compared to electrification technologies

Notes to Editors

‘Hydrogen’s role in Scotland’s Climate Journey’ report & summary

Scottish Government’s climate plan in jeopardy as officials admit flaw due to over reliance on ‘negative emissions technology’ – Sun 26 June 2022

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.