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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

On the other hand, company decisions around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy provides more detail on how the 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?

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

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

Its versatility suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

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

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on gas.

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

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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 primary aspect in market advancement”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … Read More.

The former is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

Short (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & with no sensible policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

Environmental groups and many researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs released along with the main technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will provide “further detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

Comparison of rate estimates across various technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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


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

At the heart of lots of conversations 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 pledge to “settle design aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

This opposition came to a head when a current research study resulted in headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

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

The technique likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for uses that “do not include the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

” As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

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

The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many researchers deem more economical and effective technology.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The federal government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the federal governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends prospective hydrogen demand 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 brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its top priorities carefully. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 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 alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may also offer some clarity. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply financing for the company model. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. These contracts are created to conquer the cost space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake 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 method admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. Now that its technique has been published, the government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to go into the sector. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "really small" for individual homes. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched together with the primary method.