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

Specialists have actually warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

On the other hand, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this new market.

In its brand-new strategy, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and says it wants the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on gas.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget impact assessment and the full range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually absolutely no.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

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

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

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

Its versatility means it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then broaden significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.


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

Contrast of rate estimates throughout different technology types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main aspect in market development”.

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government need to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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 omitted.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “more information on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

This opposition capped when a current research study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

Supporting a range of jobs will provide the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

Short (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no reasonable 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 CCC has previously specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035″ in its hydrogen technique.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

Environmental groups and many researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to establish both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released along with the main strategy, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for determining these emissions.

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

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

However, the strategy likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps..

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists deem more cost-effective and effective technology. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to pick its top priorities carefully. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading priority. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. " As the technique admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. Protection of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might also provide some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The new hydrogen method validates that this business model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released alongside the main technique. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service design to motivate personal financial investment and an income mechanism to supply funding for business model. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for specific households. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms.