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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and analyzes a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock changes.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at virtually absolutely no.

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high rates and low effectiveness..

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

The file consists of 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 actually been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in lots of sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete range is based on the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

The plan likewise called for 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 minimize reliance on natural gas.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the impact 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 omitted.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

Supporting a range of jobs will provide the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

The file does not do that and instead states it will provide “further detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs launched alongside the main technique, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 says:.

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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of international warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the worldwide warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

Contrast of price estimates across different innovation types at central fuel rates 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main aspect in market advancement”.

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

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

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

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

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

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, 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.

” As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen need 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.

The strategy also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

Call for evidence 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 CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to “locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and providing versatility to the power system.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which lots of researchers deem more affordable and efficient technology.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “left open” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Dedications made in the new technique include:. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its priorities carefully. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies 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 go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy may also provide some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for private families. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. These contracts are created to conquer the expense gap between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this organization model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced along with the main technique. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and an income system to supply funding for business design. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 strategy admits, there will not 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.".