Lancaster University: Lancaster expert helping to solve the energy crisis


Lancaster University Professor Roger Kemp is part of a team evaluating policy options for incorporating hydrogen into the UK’s energy systems.

Roger Kemp, Emeritus Professor in the School of Engineering, is a member of the National Engineering Policy Centre working group on decarbonisation policy. The NEPC is a partnership of 42 professional engineering organisations, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which informs government policy.

Professor Kemp is a member of a small group briefing government ministers on aspects of energy policy, with the latest NEPC report examining the role of hydrogen in the push for Net Zero.

“Part of this work has involved the practicalities around the use of hydrogen as a means of equalising out the peaks and troughs of demand (almost everyone switching on their heating between 06:00 and 08:00 in winter) and of supply (a wind-free, overcast weekend).”

But he warned there are no easy options.

“When the electricity industry was privatised by the Conservative government in 1990, almost all our electricity was produced by burning coal and gas. The ‘rules’ of the electricity market resulted in the price of electricity being closely tied to world prices of fossil fuels. By contrast, the figures for 2021 show that nearly 50% of electricity provided by the grid is from renewable sources. However, consumer prices are still tied to the price of gas.

To provide an affordable, low-carbon power supply, action is needed in three areas:-

· Firstly, the electricity market has to be redesigned to reflect the costs of supply, rather than world gas prices

· Secondly, amount of renewable energy generation needs to be doubled

· Thirdly, there needs to be a way of storing some of that energy from times of surplus (windy summer nights) to times of peak demand (winter evenings)

Professor Kemp said: “It is here where hydrogen can help. Electricity can be used to produce hydrogen, when there is an energy surplus, to be used when there is high energy demand. Hydrogen can also be made from natural gas (methane), but the process also produces carbon dioxide which has to be captured and either used in industry or stored securely in deep reservoirs.“

“Building hydrogen infrastructure is expensive but, without it, we would need to invest in far more renewable energy. Producing hydrogen from natural gas is even more expensive than burning gas, so is not a long-term solution with the present high gas prices.”

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