In-depth Q&A: How will the UK’s hydrogen strategy help achieve net-zero?

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Hydrogen will be “critical” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen technique supplies more detail on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

Experts have cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Its flexibility implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

Today we have actually published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start a whole market release the market to cut costs ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// t.co/ aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

In some applications, hydrogen will take on electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the very best methods of decarbonisation.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the technique.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in numerous sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and says it desires the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an essential element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The file contains an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and produce a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, specifying that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “mindful of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans pertain to fruition it might then broaden substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

In the example picked for the assessment, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

Supporting a variety of projects will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

The file does not do that and rather says it will offer “more information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

This opposition capped when a current study led to headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

Brief (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

Comparison of rate quotes across various technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.
2021.

The CCC has actually formerly specified that the government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

The CCC has formerly defined “suitable emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– stated that, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

Glossary.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The new method largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, however the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The strategy mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government should “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

The CCC has actually alerted that policies should establish both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

The plan keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “finalise style elements” of such standards by early 2022.

It has also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

Close.
CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as … Read More.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

At the heart of many conversations about low-carbon hydrogen production is whether the hydrogen is “green” or “blue”.

How will hydrogen be utilized in various sectors of the economy?

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Dedications made in the new strategy include:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top priority. " As the method confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its top priorities thoroughly. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10 pic.twitter.com/I8HpqQjlKS— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. The method likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists deem more cost-effective and efficient innovation. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for business model. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are created to conquer the cost space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced along with the main method. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for individual families.

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