What is Power-to-Gas?
Power-to-gas refers to the process of converting surplus electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind into a gaseous fuel that can be used for electricity generation or stored until needed. When there is excess renewable energy being generated, power-to-gas technology utilizes this electricity to produce hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. The hydrogen can then be combined with carbon dioxide to produce methane, also known as renewable natural gas. This process effectively stores renewable electricity generated at times of low demand in the form of a flexible fuel that can be transported via existing gas pipelines and utilized in various applications.
The Need for Energy Storage
One of the challenges with renewable energy sources like solar and wind is that their generation is variable and not always readily available to meet demand. Solar panels only generate electricity when the sun is shining and wind turbines only operate when winds are strong enough. This intermittent nature of renewable energy production can cause issues when supplying electricity to the grid. Power-to-gas technology provides a means of storing surplus renewable energy so that it can be dispatched during times when wind and solar production is low but energy demand remains high. By converting excess renewable electricity into gases like hydrogen and methane, the energy is effectively stored until needed, overcoming one of the key obstacles holding back higher penetration of variable renewable energy sources.
Uses for Renewable Gases
The gases produced through power-to-gas have several potential uses. Hydrogen can be transported via pipelines and used as a fuel for transportation, industrial processes, and Power-to-Gas . Methane produced from power-to-gas can be directly injected into the existing natural gas distribution network and utilized for various applications just like natural gas including residential and commercial heating, cooking, transportation, and power generation. Research is also underway to blend higher percentages of renewable methane into the gas grid. This upgrading allows the stored energy from variable renewable sources like wind and solar to be tapped into at a later time, helping decarbonize end uses that are difficult to electrify.
Benefits Beyond Energy Storage
Beyond simply providing a means of long-term renewable energy storage, power-to-gas offers some other key benefits as well. It helps balance electricity supply and demand by utilizing excess renewable generation during low demand periods to produce gases. This stabilization of the grid is important as more intermittent renewable sources are added. Power-to-gas also creates a link between the electricity and gas sectors which enhances flexibility across energy networks. The infrastructure required can support regional development as the gases produced can be transported via pipelines over long distances to areas with energy demand. From an environmental perspective, power-to-gas technologies provide pathway toward decarbonizing sectors that rely heavily on fossil fuels like natural gas by offering an alternative using renewable energy sources.
Technical Challenges and Advancements
While power-to-gas shows much promise, there are still some technical challenges holding back more widespread adoption. Electrolysis to split water into hydrogen is still an expensive technology requiring further cost reductions from economies of scale and technical improvements. Efficiency losses also occur during the multistep process of converting electricity to a gaseous fuel. Research is ongoing into more advanced and less expensive electrolyzer designs that operate at higher pressures and temperatures. Scientists are also working on enhancing the methanation process to more efficiently combine hydrogen with carbon dioxide or biosources into methane. Regulations and standards related to transportation and injection of renewable gases into existing infrastructure also need to evolve. Despite current challenges, steady technological progress is being made to address issues and make power-to-gas economically viable at larger scales.
Policy Support Driving Development
Recognizing power-to-gas’s potential role in enabling higher renewable energy penetration and a decarbonized energy system, several countries have put supportive policies and initiatives in place. In Germany, government backing through programs like the Power-to-Gas Roadmap and funding for demonstration projects has helped establish the country as a global leader in this technology. Other European nations like France, Italy, and the Netherlands have introduced financial incentives and enacted regulations favorable to power-to-gas development. Japan established a hydrogen strategy in 2017 calling for commercial production of renewable hydrogen using power-to-gas by 2030 to help meet climate targets. Even in the United States, projects are underway in California and Utah receiving support through funding under the DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. With appropriate policy tailwinds, power-to-gas looks set to play a critical role in future energy systems around the world.
As the world accelerates the transition toward cleaner energy sources, flexible storage options like power-to-gas will assume increasing importance. By leveraging existing gas infrastructure, power-to-gas provides a potential pathway to integrate much larger amounts of wind and solar power on the grid while maintaining reliability. Continued progress addressing technical and economic barriers will be key to realizing this vision. With ambitious emission reduction targets making energy intermittency challenges more pressing, now is the time for policymakers and innovators to work together in advancing power-to-gas technology toward commercial viability. Doing so represents an opportunity to bolster renewable penetration, cut carbon emissions across multiple sectors, and develop sustainable regional energy economies for the future.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it