Hydrogen is the energy future
Renewably generated hydrogen could supply energy storage at scales many times beyond which even the largest battery systems could attain, writes Mike Koefman; while John Ellis says it’s time for joined-up thinking on our future energy strategy
There is truth in Professor Underwood’s assertion (Letters, 16 May) that nothing can surpass the “round trip” efficiency of lithium-ion batteries from, for example, solar input to final user’s output. But in focusing on this undoubted advantage he omits the overriding issue of energy storage at very much larger scales. It is this concern which has driven the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (not in the “gas industry’s pocket”, by the way) to take a serious look at hydrogen, which used to be a substantial component of our former “town gas”, derived rather filthily from coal, but which can now can be derived very cleanly from solar and wind power, directed through the water-splitting magic of modern electrolytic machinery. Such renewably generated hydrogen could supply energy storage at scales many times beyond which even the largest battery systems could attain, and could do so both in the UK and in diverse economies throughout the world. Batteries will always be needed for specific uses, but in order to displace the carbon-laden fossil fuels which now imperil climate, ocean and the whole biosphere something rather different must be adopted – something storable at all scales, transmissible, fully functional as a fuel, and climate-neutral. Only hydrogen fills this particular bill.
Director, Planet Hydrogen, Manchester
• Professor Underwood correctly asserts that the efficiency of a Li-ion and heat pump system in terms of heat generation is far better than electrolysing water to make hydrogen.