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

Experts have cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen technique 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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

Prior to the brand-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 essentially zero.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then expand substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

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 blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on natural gas.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

The new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

This opposition capped when a current study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but 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 record 100% of emissions..

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

In the example picked for the consultation, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were left out..

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a limit 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 excluded.

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 “think about carbon strength as the main factor in market advancement”.

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


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

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

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather states it will supply “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses launched alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

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

The federal government is more positive about using 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 listed below shows.

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

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

Government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

However, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial 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 is 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 strategy also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:. So, 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 usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top priority. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to choose its priorities thoroughly. " As the strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous scientists view as more efficient and economical technology. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise provide some clearness. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for specific households. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are created to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for business aiming to enter the sector. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake 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 market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater costs or public funds. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to motivate personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to offer financing for business design. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched along with the primary method. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms.