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Hydrogen Heat & Fleet Viability Assessment

Funding mechanismNetwork Innovation Allowance (NIA)
DurationMay 2018 - Jan 2019
Project expenditure60k
Research areaNew Technologies and Commercial Evolution
  • South West
  • South Wales
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands


The primary aim of this project is to research the use of hydrogen electrolysers as a controllable load. In areas with large penetrations of renewable generation, controllable load will increase the capacity for further generation connections.

WPD has developed an outline proposal for a “Heat and Fleet” demonstration project which would explore the use of electrolysers to generate hydrogen from excess local renewable electricity. This concept could result in less curtailment of renewable resources, and provide a highly controllable demand allowing energy storage in the form of hydrogen gas. As a demonstrator, it would provide insight into both cross-vector and cross-sector opportunities covering the electricity and gas networks, heat, and transportation and as suggested by the project name, there are two potential end uses for hydrogen:

  • Heating: Use in a fuel cell for heating a building, combined with electricity output.
  • Transport: Use in hydrogen vehicles (either internal combustion or fuel cell).


An increase in intermittent renewable generation has pushed networks within the WPD license areas to capacity and no further renewable generation can be connected without reinforcement. Consequently solutions that can effectively smooth this intermittency and as a result allow further connection of generation are being explored.

The UK Government has placed huge emphasis on decarbonising the electricity system through a number of initiatives such as heat pumps and the displacement of conventional fossil-fueled generation such as coal by cleaner sources like solar and wind. Adding to that list is the claim that hydrogen can be used as another source of cleaner energy. DECC’s H21 project has recently (June 2016) claimed that entire cities can feasibly be converted to Hydrogen mains gas. Yet the impact of hydrogen fuel cells on the electricity grid has yet to be evaluated.

As part of the UK H2 Mobility programme, Hydrogen vehicle Refuellers are being installed across the UK, a large proportion of which have local electrolyser-based H2 production. Sixty five are expected before 2020 with the numbers increasing exponentially thereafter.

When a new generation connection is requested at a constrained site, current practice is to either reinforce the network or offer the generator alternative network connection arrangements. Novel techniques for reducing constraint issues have been explored by WPD, including the use of batteries to shift load and the use of active network management technologies. However, to date, these practices have not extended to hydrogen and fuel cells.


The delivery of the project has been structured around a number of work tasks detailed below:

1. Project initiation:
Ensuring that the overarching project aims and objectives are understood, with a set of clear outcomes. It will be important to clearly identify how the trial project aims to address some of the network challenges and how the project can provide genuinely new innovative insight for WPD and other network companies.

The project will seek to address key metrics such as the approximate size of plant (fuel cells, electrolyser, number of vehicles, etc.) and potential trial programme.

2. Technical and economic feasibility:
Following on from the project proposal we will be keen to produce an outline technical specification. This will provide shape to the project, enable some indicative cost analysis to be conducted, and will be used to help identify comparable projects / case studies, and technology providers.
Key components of this task are:

  • Develop high level project specification. Identify the key technical components and boundary conditions to the project based.
  • Produce a simple technical model which will assess energy flows (renewable electricity supply, building energy demands, and transport demands) and provide a high-level estimate of equipment sizes (for the electrolyser, and fuel cell), hydrogen storage volumes, and vehicle capacity.
  • High level financial analysis of the project / trial taking into account capital and operational costs. This will help identify indicative project investment costs, lifetime cost benefits, and provide comparison with any alternative network reinforcement costs.

3. Market study:
This task is designed to help understand the capability of the market to deliver a project like this. Specifically, this task will assess the level of maturity of the hydrogen market (to support building a view as to the deliverability of a trial project), and the likely future market for larger scale role out / getting to business as usual.

4. Refinement of project scope and identification of potential partners: 
The final task will draw together the high level feasibility work with the market research to refine the scope of the project. The analysis will consider:

  • The feasibility of the project and whether there are sweet spots in terms of project size and configuration.
  • The level of innovation in the project – is it new, what questions is it trying to answer, and where can it add new insight over existing trials.
  • The learnings from existing projects – how should this trial building on these to add new insight and value to network companies.
  • The ability of the market to deliver – are suitable technologies and skills available? Does the availability of these influence the scope of the project?

5. Closedown: Project reporting