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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Company decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

The document consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on natural gas.

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

Its adaptability 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..

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

However, as with the majority 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 new industry.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to start gradually, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold 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 numerous discussions about low-carbon hydrogen production is whether the hydrogen is “green” or “blue”.

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

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

The CCC has warned that policies should develop both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any practical policies. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The new technique mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

In the example chosen for the assessment, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were excluded..

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

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

The government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise style elements” of such standards by early 2022.


Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as … Read More.

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 debate”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government must “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

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

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous researchers consider as more effective and economical technology.

Dedications made in the new strategy include:.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

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 “do not include the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Coverage of the report and federal government advertising products emphasised that the governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to utilize it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

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

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

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

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

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be limited to “locations less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short term.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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.

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

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. The method likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released together with the primary strategy. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to overcome the expense gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private investment and an earnings system to provide financing for the organization model. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.".