Our new report has exposed the inefficiencies, soaring costs and the threat posed to renewable energy supplies by the Scottish Government’s support for hydrogen. 

The report, ‘Hydrogen’s role in Scotland’s climate journey’ found that 98% of global hydrogen production is from fossil fuels. The research revealed that carbon capture technology, which is intended to catch the pollution created in the production of fossil fuelled hydrogen, was only 60% effective. 

This means huge amounts of damaging climate pollution escape, critically undermining the key argument made by its backers. Hydrogen’s biggest supporters are often the fossil fuel companies who are using it to greenwash their image whilst they keep drilling new fields in the North Sea. 

Fossil fuelled or ‘blue’ hydrogen is completely dependent on carbon capture technology that is in its infancy in Europe and has repeatedly failed to get off the ground in the UK. 

‘Drawbacks’ of green hydrogen

The research showed that ‘green’ hydrogen, whilst lower carbon than fossil fuel derived hydrogen also has serious drawbacks. It requires enormous amounts of renewable energy to produce green hydrogen. 

For example, if Scotland’s 2030 hydrogen target was to be met by green hydrogen, it would require 80% of the country’s entire renewable energy supply. That’s enough electricity for over 6 million homes- more than twice as many as in the whole of Scotland! 

There are real concerns that Scotland’s renewable energy could be diverted from its crucial role in cutting climate pollution from our electricity grid to instead make green hydrogen. 

Potential uses of Hydrogen 

Backers of hydrogen believe that it could be used in heating and transport but again the research found that this wasn’t the best approach. 

Using hydrogen for heating our homes was found to be more expensive and less efficient than direct electrification through technologies like heat pumps. Using green hydrogen to meet Scotland’s heating demand would require 180% more renewable energy than Scotland produces currently. 

Similarly, powering transport with renewable energy directly is already much more efficient, cheaper, and more advanced commercially than deploying hydrogen in transport. Electric vehicles are more than twice as energy efficient than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The report came just after Scottish Government officials admitted for the first time that so-called ‘negative emissions technology’ like CCS and hydrogen would not be delivered this decade, leaving a huge gap in its plans to cut climate emissions. 

Ministers had produced a Climate Change Plan update in 2020 which calculated that these technologies would be responsible for cutting almost 20% of Scottish emissions by 2030, rising to an astonishing quarter of cuts as soon as 2032. 

Recommendations 

The Government must now go back to the drawing board and come up with a credible plan to make up for this vast shortfall. Instead of throwing more money at fantasy techno-fixes, they should be ramping up support for reliable renewable power, affordable public transport and energy efficiency measures which we know can deliver in the short term. 

We are calling on the Scottish Government to end any further public funding to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels. By prioritising electrification over green hydrogen in areas like heating and transport, the Scottish Government can better protect households from high costs and ensure renewables can clean up our energy system.

By the end of this decade, Scotland must have made real progress in a transformational plan that phases out fossil fuel extraction and use, while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities currently dependent on the industry.