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

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

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

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

As with many of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

The file consists of 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Its flexibility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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 mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on natural gas.

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

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden substantially– 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.

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

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025″ set out in the method.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells 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 states:.

The CCC has actually formerly specified “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas cost savings”.

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

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

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies must develop both blue and green choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the main strategy, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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

The figure 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The plan notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main element in market development”.

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The CCC has actually formerly specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

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


Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

Quick (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

This opposition capped when a current research study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to federal government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

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

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

However, the strategy also 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..

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

Call for proof 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 competitors in 2021.

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

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

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:.

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the government to select its concerns carefully.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and providing versatility to the power system.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals industry– offered top concern.

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

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous scientists deem more cost-efficient 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 use by 2035, as the chart below shows.

In the real report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". 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. Current energy demand 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 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may likewise supply some clarity. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for specific homes. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate personal investment and a profits system to provide financing for business design. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to enter the sector. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen method validates that this company design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary strategy. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. Now that its method has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.