Future Ready


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Connectrolyser aims to scale hydrogen electrolyser hub development by developing a novel operational approach to expedite new connections and support the societal and industrial hydrogen demand to achieve net zero while minimising impact of the network.

What is the project about?

The electrolysis process is critical for generating green hydrogen, which is a key requirement for helping the UK achieve its Net Zero targets, as well as the shorter-term UK aim of 5GW green hydrogen production by 2030.

Electrolyser electricity grid connections must be affordable and available as quickly as possible to support the achievement of the nationwide Net Zero target. Hydrogen hubs at around 10MW scale are expected to emerge to serve industry and communities throughout UK Power Networks’ region and elsewhere in the UK. A traditional fixed connection agreement, with associated network reinforcement and upgrade requirements may not be able to support the electrolyser deployment plan required to meet the Government’s ambitions.

This study was a multi-utility collaboration with gas networks. The project aims to progress to an Alpha phase and submitted an application for further funding in July 2023. Should the Alpha phase proceed and result in a successful Beta Phase demonstrator, the lessons and solutions will be applied to other instances where electrolysers are required in local hydrogen hubs. The results will inform the development of connections policy and will be shared with other DNOs.

How we’re doing it

This Strategic Innovation Fund Discovery study carried out a series of research and analysis activities to understand what the challenges and opportunities were regarding uptake of electrolysers on the distribution networks.

Having reviewed the various connection products offered by UK Power Networks, this study concluded that in theory, all requirements specific to electrolysers and the ecosystem in which they operate can be met with existing connection products.

Using real-life and postulated fuel demand profiles for a disparate range of end uses, an optimised outline design was created for an illustrative hydrogen hub that could satisfy these demands. The design included: electrolyser, storage, behind the meter power supply and electrical connection to the distribution network. From this, an illustrative hydrogen and electricity half-hourly demand profile was developed.

What makes it innovative

UK Power Networks’ Flexible Plug and Play project led to widespread uptake of flexible generation connections. These delivered over £117m of customer benefits since 2015 and paved the way for establishing other distribution system operator (DSO) capabilities. Ofgem has clear ambitions for DSO; developing further solutions to enable smart, flexible demand connections will support these aims.

Therefore, part of the innovations associated with this project were to understand what the flexible operating characteristics of electrolysers are and how they could act as another source of energy flexibility. The project investigated a specific area where there is an established need for green hydrogen, and an opportunity to create a local hydrogen hub.

What we’re learning

Project modelling found that significant network reinforcement deferrals could be achieved if hydrogen hubs operated flexibly whilst still meeting the end user hydrogen demands. Up to 8GW of electrolysers are predicted to connect to UK distribution networks by 2050. The implementation of a successful Connectrolyser concept could save significant network reinforcement costs by dynamically managing the system for whole system optimisation.

Modelling also considered the value of flexible electrolyser operation to network security of supply. The study estimated the net present value range of potential benefit to 2050 from £44m to £1,772m, at 2020/21 prices, depending on the future energy scenario and voltage level of flexible electrolysers connection by deferring GB distribution network reinforcement.

In conclusion, study partners consider the Connectrolyser control system concept could optimise electrolyser operation at hydrogen hubs by exploiting flexible operation to help manage the electricity network, excess renewable generation, hydrogen customers and onsite storage. This will avoid the need for traditional firm capacity connections, the preferred choice among hydrogen developers and producers, which have longer lead times and higher costs.

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