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

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

Experts have warned 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 “important” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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 delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

However, just like most of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

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

The document contains 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

Its flexibility means it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

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

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– using up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

The strategy likewise 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.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually no.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The new method mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

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

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

” If we want to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

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

The CCC has alerted that policies should establish both blue and green alternatives, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

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

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

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..


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 dispute”. He states:.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government need to “live to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses released alongside the main method, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

It has likewise released 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 method for computing these emissions.

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

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 aspect in market advancement”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

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

Nevertheless, the method also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

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 existing power sector.

The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

Protection of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which numerous researchers see as more efficient and cost-effective technology.

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

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

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

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

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. " As the method confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of 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. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. 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%. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise offer some clearness. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply financing for business design. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the primary method. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. These contracts are developed to get rid of the cost gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for individual homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". 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 industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its technique has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.