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

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

Experts have actually alerted 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 capacity expands.

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire industry unleash the marketplace to cut costs ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

The document contains an exploration 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans concern fruition it might then expand significantly– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

Its versatility indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high costs and low performance..

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

As with most of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the method, with a pledge to “settle style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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


The brand-new strategy mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

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

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

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 techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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 “think about carbon intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

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

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

Contrast of price estimates throughout various technology types at central fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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, an amount known as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government ought to “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

” As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers view as more cost-effective and effective innovation.

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading concern. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The technique also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the government to select its top priorities thoroughly. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. 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". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings technique might likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor 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 federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. " This will offer 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 accomplishing the levels of production necessary to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". These contracts are created to conquer the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to encourage private financial investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business design. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for individual families. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 substantial quantities 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. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this business model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced together with the main technique.