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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Company choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire industry 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.

Its adaptability suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently struggles with high costs and low performance..

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand considerably– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the technique.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

Many researchers and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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 says:.

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

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

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

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 factor in market development”.

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

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

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

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

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies must establish both green and blue options, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The figure below from the consultation, 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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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


The government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “settle style components” of such standards by early 2022.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government must “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

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

The government is more positive about using 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 listed below suggests.

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Protection of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the governments plan would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

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

This remains 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 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for uses that “do not include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Nevertheless, the method likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heatpump..

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

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:.

” As the method confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to use it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical cars, which many scientists consider as more effective and cost-effective technology.

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

The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. 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 merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its priorities carefully. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to produce 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 aim to make a final decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise supply some clearness. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? These contracts are developed to conquer the cost gap between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization design to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for business design. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business aiming to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this company design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the main technique. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "very small" for individual families. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "developed on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion 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 market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds.