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

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

Professionals have actually cautioned 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.

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in lots of sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

The document consists of an expedition 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 seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to begin slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

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

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain 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 car stock modifications.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden considerably– using up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Short (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & with no practical regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government need to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

The strategy states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Supporting a range of projects will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

The federal government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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 strength as the primary element in market advancement”.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

The new technique mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary technique, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The figure below from the assessment, 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 methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars, which many researchers deem more affordable and effective technology. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would provide sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are few options 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 committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. This is 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. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends 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 homes. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Federal government analysis, included in the method, recommends prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. However, the technique likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump.. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". 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%. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy may likewise provide some clearness. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? These agreements are designed to get rid of the cost space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been published, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for individual homes. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the primary strategy. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings system to supply funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector.