From hydrogen to heat networks: Funding confirmed for 53 British energy innovation projects

Around £6m has been requested of energy regulator Ofgem and arms-length Government body Innovate UK by the 53 projects, which, if scaled, could reduce energy system costs by billions of pounds over a 15-year period.

The two organisations are providing the funding through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which was launched in 2021 and slated to run for five years. Funding provided through this latest round, which had a total budget of up to £150,000 per project, has been allocated to projects that contribute to the creation of a resilient, net-zero future energy system and facilitate a just transition.

On the just transition piece, one successful project, SHIELD, is testing new approaches to installing multiple low-carbon technologies at homes, that could slash installation costs. Another, VIVID, is exploring how smart meter data can be used to identify homes that would benefit most from grant funding from their local authority to improve energy efficiency. Elsewhere, Net-Zero Terrace is developing a model for low-cost heat decarbonisation across entire terraced streets at a time.

Under other focus areas, the SIF is providing funding to innovators in fields including hydrogen, heating and energy storage.

The ‘Electrolyser Improvements driven by Waste Heat Recovery’ project is seeking to develop next-generation, extra-efficient electrolysters for producing hydrogen from waste heat produced in the transportation of network gases. The NextGen Electrolysis project is exploring how green hydrogen could be produced by electrolysing wastewater rather than clean water, thus reducing costs and demands on the water system.

Hydrogen storage project ‘Hybrid Storage System’ has also received SIF support, as has HyCoRe Discovery, which is developing software to optimise hydrogen generation and storage facilities.

Ofgem’s director of strategy and decarbonisation Neil Kenward said: “Our work with Innovate UK is empowering today’s innovators and helping establish Britain as an entrepreneurial energy innovation hub developing and delivering the power solutions of tomorrow.

“This will help in the quest to transform our energy systems at pace and boost supplies of clean and secure energy at the least cost to consumers and ensure that no one is left behind.”

Each project will use its funding over a period of up to three months, to further develop their concepts and assess potential future phases. Projects will then be judged by SIF and selected schemes will be awarded up to £500,000 for a further six-month proof of concept phase, which would start in the summer. Ofgem and Innovate UK believe that this timescale would enable the innovations to be rolled out in the mid-2020s or late-2020s and are estimating multi-billion-pound savings on energy system operating costs.

The deputy director of the SIF programme Max Hastings said: “Discovery is all about urgent learning and taking risks; we expect a degree of failure. This ensures that only the best ideas make it through to the next phases, with the amount of projects reducing as the level of consumer investment in SIF projects increases.”

A full list of SIF-backed projects can be found here.

The news about the SIF follows on from a bumper day of green policy publications from the UK Government. Last Thursday (30 March), Departments collectively posted more than 2,800 pages pertaining to energy security, the energy transition and green finance. Click here to read our summary of all the key announcements. 

EDITOR’s NOTE: This piece has been edited to clarify that the budget for each project was up to £150,000, not the budget for the whole funding round.

Comments (2)

  1. David Dundas says:

    Using waste heat to improve electrolyser efficiency by reducing the electricity required to split the water molecule is not new, which is by waste steam electrolysis as developed into a practical system by the Sunfire company in Germany. This exists so why do we have to waste new money to further develop this technology when we should be using the money to expand what we already have? Research is good but should be shared with implementation.

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    After 35 years in research with the UKAEA, I disagree with Max Hastings that discovery is all about “urgent learning and taking risks…..”
    It is about the steady application of knowledge, as it is gained, to the project in hand; it is 99% perspiration, and 1% inspiration. There is no free lunch.

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