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

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

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

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

Firm decisions around the degree 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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high rates and low performance..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to begin slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically no.

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

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The file does not do that and instead says it will offer “more information on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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

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

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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

The CCC has alerted that policies need to develop both blue and green choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025″..

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

Supporting a variety of projects will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..


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

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

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

The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heatpump..

However, the beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

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

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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 usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

” As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is consistent with the governments focus on electric vehicles, which many scientists deem more economical and efficient innovation. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Dedications made in the new method include:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation 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 existing power sector. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those locations which include most value. The government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the 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 states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method may likewise provide some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "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 strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and an income system to provide financing for the organization design. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the primary strategy. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to go into the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "really little" for individual families. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Now that its method has been released, the federal government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:.