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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might consume to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

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

Professionals 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.

Firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use 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.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

As with most of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

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

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, specifying that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

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 strategy, and says it wants the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

Its adaptability means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high rates and low efficiency..

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final 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 range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

It has 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.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

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

Many researchers and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must develop both green and blue alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The brand-new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

The CCC has previously defined “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He states:.

Quick (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 expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

In the example picked for the consultation, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

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 primary element in market advancement”.

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 market lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

However, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the federal governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Government analysis, included in the method, suggests potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. However, the method likewise 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.. The government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. " As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to use it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment 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. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone 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 usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 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. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more economical and effective innovation. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading priority. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might likewise supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project 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? Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, 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. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen need (pink area) 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen method validates that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the primary method. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage private investment and a profits system to offer funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "very little" for private homes. These agreements are created to overcome the cost space in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space.