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

Specialists have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK should 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 technique and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy offers more detail on how the federal government will support the advancement 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 could consume to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

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

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on natural gas.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

In its new technique, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential part of its net-zero strategy, and says it wants the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Its versatility indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high costs and low performance..

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “mindful of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government should “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The figure below from the assessment, based upon 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 excluded.

The federal government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

The brand-new method 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 varieties.

Brief (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & 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.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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 factor in market development”.

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will offer “further information on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

It has actually likewise launched 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 method for calculating these emissions.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

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

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs released along with the primary method, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its top priorities carefully.

Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heatpump..

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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 competitors in 2021.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for uses that “do not add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

However, in the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation 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. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Dedications made in the brand-new method include:. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone 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 equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The federal government is more optimistic about making 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 indicates. " As the method confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method may likewise supply some clearness. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". 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 market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "really little" for specific households. The new hydrogen method validates that this service design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched along with the primary method. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service model to encourage private investment and a revenue system to provide funding for the service design. 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 come from either higher costs or public funds. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:.