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

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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Experts have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

As the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock modifications.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “aware of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full range is based on the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

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

Today we have actually published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire industry unleash the market to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

In its brand-new strategy, 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 “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle design components” of such standards by early 2022.


Contrast of price quotes throughout different innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Brief (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & with no practical policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to develop both green and blue options, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary consider market advancement”.

Supporting a variety of jobs will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

The CCC has previously mentioned that the federal government needs to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035″ in its hydrogen strategy.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched alongside the main method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The new strategy largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government need to “be alive to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

In the example selected for the assessment, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were omitted..

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for determining these emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

At the heart of numerous 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?

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

However, the technique likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heatpump..

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– offered leading priority.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. " As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Commitments made in the new technique consist of:. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electric automobiles, which numerous scientists consider as more effective and cost-efficient technology. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its concerns carefully. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are created to get rid of the expense gap between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the main method. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for private households. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to encourage personal investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for the service model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher costs or public funds. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 method states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.