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

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.

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 capability expands.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

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

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

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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 lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on natural gas.

Today we have actually published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole market release the market to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

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

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. Currently, this capability stands at practically no.

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 plan, and says it desires the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact 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 made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

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 argument”. He states:.

The new method mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

At the heart of numerous conversations 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 readily available, according to government analysis included in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The document does not do that and instead states it will offer “additional detail on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

It has actually also released 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 approach for determining these emissions.

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as … Read More.


Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

The federal government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise design aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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 development”.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the main method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 competition in 2021.

The brand-new method is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many scientists see as more effective and economical innovation.

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

In the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to choose its concerns carefully. However, the strategy likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise supply some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. " This will offer 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 might play in attaining the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its method has actually been published, the government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are designed to get rid of the expense space in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced together with the main method. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and a revenue system to supply funding for the company design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "very small" for specific homes.