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

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might use up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

Professionals have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in short 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 key points from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Company decisions around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

The file contains an expedition 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have actually alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on gas.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an essential part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically zero.

However, similar to the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

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

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

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

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it could then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary method, reveals 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.).

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..


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

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

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 argument”. He states:.

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

Quick (ideally) reflecting 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 terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

Many scientists and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over 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 risk of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

This opposition capped when a recent study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

The new strategy mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

Comparison of rate quotes throughout various technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

The CCC has actually warned that policies should establish both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial 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 competitors in 2021.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term.

Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:.

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities carefully.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “exposed” the door for uses that “do not include the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

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

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Coverage of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which lots of scientists see as more efficient and affordable technology.

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to “locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual 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 beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. The method likewise consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. The government is more optimistic about the use 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 listed below suggests. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures technique might also provide some clearness. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very little" for private families. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable premise to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to enter the sector. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage private investment and a profits system to provide funding for business model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, 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 higher bills or public funds. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this organization model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced alongside the main strategy. These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.