Amendment 43

Energy Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 7th September 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke:

Moved by Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke

43: Clause 61, page 55, line 5, leave out from “of” to end and insert ““low carbon hydrogen production”, including (without limitation) compliance with the Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard”Member’s explanatory statementRegulations must have regard to the Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard in setting objective criteria against which to assess the eligibility of low carbon hydrogen production.

Photo of Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Labour

I will speak to Amendments 43, 45, 48 and 58. Again, they are trying to cope with some of the wide definitions that are contained within the Bill. I am most impressed with the fact that the Government have defined a UK Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard, which was updated in July of this year. It includes guidance and a calculator tool for hydrogen producers to use for greenhouse gas emissions reporting and sustainability criteria. That standard has been designed to demonstrate that low-carbon hydrogen production methods can meet a greenhouse gas emissions test and threshold, and these amendments require the regulations to have regard to that standard when assessing the eligibility of low-carbon hydrogen production. It goes back to what I said beforehand. We are not necessarily nitpicking here; we are seeking to get an amendment into place that allows us to have due regard to low-carbon hydrogen standards in setting objective criteria against which to assess the eligibility of low-carbon hydrogen production. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 46 in my name. As the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell of Coatdyke, clearly set out, this group of amendments is trying to implement something that the Government themselves have established: the UK Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard: Guidance on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting and Sustainability Criteria, which I believe dates originally to April and was updated in July. I find myself in the unusual position of saying that I want to enforce something that the Government have established. Experts in this area tell me that the conditions set out in these standards are: the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of hydrogen for it to be considered low carbon; the emissions being considered up to the point of production; and, very importantly, the risk mitigation plan for fugitive hydrogen emissions. There is perhaps not much public awareness of the risk of that, but we need to share and understand it. The criteria are set out there.

I am not particularly attached to the way this is done in my amendment; I was simply trying to put Amendment 46 down to say that, for the subsidies to be available, it must meet the Government’s own standard. That seems the simplest way, but I am very happy to be convinced that there are various other ways; other amendments are going in the same direction. I am happy should we still need to get to this on Report to talk to people about what the best way of doing it is, but surely the Government want to enforce their own standards.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 47 in my name. I find myself in the unusual position of being more environmentally ambitious than the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, in that the standard that my amendment would introduce on hydrogen would be more stringent and would ensure that we are investing in this form of clean energy only if it is truly clean.

It is a not well understood fact that hydrogen actually has a global warming potential which is not insignificant. When released into the atmosphere, it has the effect of inhibiting the breakdown of methane, which we all know is a powerful greenhouse gas. The latest papers to come out that the Government have produced themselves indicate that, over a 100-year timescale, hydrogen has a global warming potential of 11 times that of CO2. That is over 100 years, but we are probably concerned about the next 20 years, in which case that rises to it having 33 times as powerful a greenhouse gas effect as CO2.

When it comes to hydrogen, I know it is often touted as the great white hope and the great solution—in fact, we have had adverts plastered all over Westminster telling us that hydrogen is the answer. However, it has to be considered carefully in context. It is very difficult to produce and to transport, and it is very dangerous to have around the house. In fact, studies have shown that it is potentially between three to four times more likely that someone will be injured from a hydrogen explosion in the home compared to natural gas. Already, natural gas has an unhappily high number of accidents and injuries from its use in the home.

So we should be under no illusion but that hydrogen in home heating is a last resort. The most obvious thing to do is to use electricity. It is the cleanest and most flexible vector. Heat pumps are by far and away more efficient. I think it has already been mentioned in this debate that it can take up to six times as much electricity to produce the same usable heat from hydrogen as a simple heat pump. This is fundamental to ensuring that we send the right signals in our energy policy. We must seek the most cost-effective and secure system. Let us not get distracted by the lobbyists and vested interests, who will tell us that their particular solution is the right one when it is so clearly not the case. Nineteen independent studies have shown us that electricity is far better for use for heating in the home than using hydrogen.

Turning to my amendment, if we are to use this highly questionable route forward for heating, let us ensure that we introduce very stringent standards. I have been speaking to the Green Hydrogen Organisation, which is a new trade association in Europe concerned with representing green hydrogen companies. It says that the best standard is 1 kilogram of CO2 equivalent for 1 kilogram of hydrogen, and that is what we should be adopting. We should seek to be as ambitious as possible, driving investment into only the cleanest forms and not being distracted by what would be a very expensive and inefficient, very costly and potentially dangerous solution which is just not needed at this time.

Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 7th September 2022

My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of the UK Hydrogen Policy Commission. I do not disagree with any of the amendments, and having a stringent green hydrogen standard is important. However, it is also important to stress that hydrogen is for use not only in home heating—I share some of the noble Baroness’s scepticism about that—and there are very significant uses of hydrogen at present in the chemical industry and as a feedstock in fertilisers. They must clearly be the priority, and we certainly need green hydrogen for that, which is a lot of green hydrogen. Although I absolutely share the ambition on tight standards for green hydrogen, we will definitely need it there, and in some of those hard-to-decarbonise areas such as steel production and the building industry. We should absolutely use it for purposes where electricity is not an easy solution, but let us not talk it down or talk about it as if it is a solution only to home heating, where I agree it probably is not practical.

Photo of Baroness Blake of Leeds Baroness Blake of Leeds Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and International Trade)

Just to add to that list of uses, I am interested in the development of the hydrogen village, as outlined in the Bill, which is a really interesting example. There are also other uses in transport, for example, which are very well advanced, and we very much look forward to the outcome of those debates.

I do not want to prolong the debate, but the obvious question to me is that a standard has been established and had extensive public consultation and multiple engagement sessions with experts by stakeholder groups, as I understand it. I just wonder why we would want to undermine all that work and complicate the situation by suggesting that the Secretary of State could override the standard. Perhaps the Minister could, in his summing up, give us a very clear explanation of how any changes to the standard and protection might be achieved, to ensure that stakeholders and the public are kept informed, as this is, as we have heard, an area of both enthusiastic response and concern.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, for their amendments in this group.

Amendments 43, 45 and 48 seek to ensure that the question of who is an eligible low-carbon hydrogen producer is determined solely by regulations that set objective criteria against which to assess eligibility, and in doing so must reference the low-carbon hydrogen standard.

Amendment 58 seeks to clarify that a low-carbon hydrogen producer must be eligible to receive support, which the other amendments would ensure means that they are compliant with the low-carbon hydrogen standard. Amendment 46 has a similar purpose; I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for it and for her encouraging comments about the policy.

Amendment 47 seeks to introduce an emissions standard for low-carbon hydrogen production and would require the Government to target support at areas that cannot benefit from other cleaner, more efficient or cost-effective decarbonisation processes. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for this amendment.

A low-carbon hydrogen producer is defined in Clause 61(8) as

“a person who carries on (or is to carry on) activities of producing hydrogen which in the opinion of the Secretary of State will contribute to a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases”.

The intention of this definition is to ensure that support under hydrogen production revenue support contracts may be provided only in respect of low-carbon hydrogen production that contributes to our decarbonisation ambitions.

Clause 61(3) places a duty on the Secretary of State to make provision in regulations for determining the meaning of “eligible” in relation to a low-carbon hydrogen producer. This approach to defining eligibility in regulations is similar to that taken for low-carbon contracts for difference in the Energy Act 2013. The regulations that define the term “eligible generator” for low-carbon contracts for difference have themselves been updated since they were introduced in 2014 as the industry and technologies have evolved; this has proved a flexible and enduring approach since 2014.

This duty is required as the Secretary of State is only able to direct a hydrogen production counterparty to offer to contract with an eligible low-carbon hydrogen producer. An allocation body will also be able only to give a notification to a hydrogen production counterparty specifying an eligible low-carbon hydrogen producer to offer to contract with. It is not practical to define an eligible low-carbon hydrogen producer in the Bill because eligibility may change over time as the industry and technologies evolve. The Government plan to consult on these regulations by early 2023.

The Government consulted on a UK low-carbon hydrogen standard last year, and a government response was published in April this year. This world-leading standard sets out a greenhouse gas emissions threshold as well as other criteria for hydrogen production to be considered low carbon, and sets out in detail the methodology for calculating the emissions associated with hydrogen production. This includes the steps that producers are expected to take to prove that the hydrogen they produce is compliant.

The standard was developed following a public consultation and multiple engagement sessions with industry and academic experts, including the Hydrogen Advisory Council and its low-carbon hydrogen standard working group. As set out in the response to the consultation on a low-carbon hydrogen business model, published in April this year, we are proceeding with our proposal to require volumes of hydrogen produced to meet the UK low-carbon hydrogen standard in order to qualify for and receive funding under the business model. The low-carbon hydrogen standard is set out in guidance and we expect it to be updated over time to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and reflects our growing understanding of how new technologies work in practice, including how hydrogen production interacts with the broader energy system. I hope that gives some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, that the standard may well change over time as our understanding of the practice grows.

With a focus on investor confidence, our current approach gives a significant degree of certainty about eligibility, which will provide prospective investors and developers with the clarity and transparency that they need to bring projects forward. While the low-carbon hydrogen standard is an integral part of the low-carbon hydrogen regime, direct reference to an emissions standard in this legislation would undermine both the need for the standard to be capable of evolving over time and the need for the legislation to be certain. The approach currently set out in the clause makes best use of regulations for setting eligibility and guidance that can be more responsive to the evolving nature of the low- carbon hydrogen standard.

Amendment 58 seeks to insert “eligible” in Clause 70(1)(b). We do not consider this necessary, as the reference to

“that low carbon hydrogen producer” in subsection (1)(b) is referring back to the

“eligible low carbon hydrogen producer” in subsection (1)(a).

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, mentioned the production of methane and it being an unhealthy by-product of hydrogen, and that a green hydrogen lobby group which I was not aware had been consulted. I will certainly take that back to the department. We have numbers on the rate of hydrogen per kilogram of greenhouse gas emissions compared with the low-carbon hydrogen standard, but I will be delighted to write to her, rather than befuddle everybody with the science here.

I therefore ask that the noble Baronesses and noble Lords withdraw and not press Amendments 43, 45, 46, 47, 48 and 58, but thank them for helping to test the robustness of the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

I am not a lawyer, and nor is the Minister, so I will understand if she wants to write to me. However, my understanding is that, if the Bill says that it complies with the UK low-carbon hydrogen standard, and then that standard was updated, the legal binding would be updated. Maybe we need wording to say that it complies with the UK low-carbon hydrogen standard as presently exists and is updated in the future. I am not sure what the wording should be, but surely if you have a standard that is being updated, saying in the Bill that you will meet that standard does not mean that the 2022 figures are fixed in stone.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I need to take that question back to the department and then write to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Labour

I thank the Minister very much for that very full response. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, raised some interesting points that I was not aware of. It would be useful to explore those further as we get towards Report. However, I am content to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 43 withdrawn.

Amendments 44 to 47 not moved.

Clause 61 agreed.

Clause 62: Direction to offer to contract

Amendment 48 not moved.

Clause 62 agreed.

Clause 63: Designation of carbon capture counterparty

Amendment 49 not moved.

Clause 63 agreed.

Clause 64 agreed.