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

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

Specialists 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.

Firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

However, as with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “aware of a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans concern fruition it could then expand substantially– using up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

Its flexibility suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high prices and low efficiency..

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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 reliance on gas.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The file does not do that and rather states it will supply “additional 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 “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He states:.

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

The CCC has actually 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 former is basically zero-carbon, however the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

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

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

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main factor in market advancement”.

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

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, 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 excluded.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released along with the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

The new strategy mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

The CCC has alerted that policies need to develop both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

Coverage of the report and government marketing products stressed that the federal governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

This is 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 present power sector.

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. The federal government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Nevertheless, the strategy also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump.. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments focus on electric vehicles, which many researchers see as more effective and affordable technology. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial 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 competitors in 2021. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top concern. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method might likewise offer some clarity. 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 objective to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? 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 evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its method has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen organization design to encourage private investment and an earnings system to provide financing for business model. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really small" for specific homes. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to go into the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The new hydrogen method confirms that this organization model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched together with the primary method. Sharelines from this story.