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

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

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

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 plans.

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen usage 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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements 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 expansion.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

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

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

However, just like most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

The plan likewise required 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 decrease reliance on gas.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the main strategy, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

The brand-new technique mainly 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 varieties.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

It has actually likewise released 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 computing these emissions.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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


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

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

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

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”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “more information on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022″.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

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

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

” As the method confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Nevertheless, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing materials stressed that the governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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– given top concern.

Dedications made in the new strategy include:.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

In the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. The strategy also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous researchers consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for space and hot 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 choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Now that its technique has actually been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and a revenue system to supply financing for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for private households. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion 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 technique confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen strategy validates that this business design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released alongside the main technique. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher expenses or public funds.