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

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

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 technique supplies more information on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is practically non-existent.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Professionals have actually warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

As with most of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Prior to the brand-new technique, 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 practically absolutely no.

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

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

As the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

Its flexibility means it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently struggles with high costs and low efficiency..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire market release the marketplace to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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


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

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

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

The CCC has formerly stated that the federal government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas facilities and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

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

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs released alongside the main strategy, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise design components” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

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 cost savings”.

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “additional detail on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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 primary consider market advancement”.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst 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 heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

Brief (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

Supporting a range of tasks will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which lots of scientists see as more efficient and cost-efficient technology.

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

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. " As the method confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. However, the strategy also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electric heatpump.. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competitors in 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". 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 says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy might likewise supply some clearness. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its method has been released, the government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. 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 expenses or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this business model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary technique. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings system to provide funding for business model. These contracts are created to overcome the cost space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for private households. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final 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 method confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new offshore wind farms.