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

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Specialists have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page method and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could utilize up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

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

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

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

As with most of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

In its new strategy, 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 desires the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the full variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

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

The file consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and create a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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 aspect in market development”.

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

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

In the example picked for the consultation, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were excluded..

The brand-new strategy mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs released alongside the main technique, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The CCC has actually formerly specified “suitable emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government must “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for computing these emissions.

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

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

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

The federal government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a pledge to “finalise design components” of such standards by early 2022.

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

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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


Comparison of rate estimates throughout different innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

The plan keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed 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 CCC has actually formerly specified that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035″ in its hydrogen technique.

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

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

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

However, the method also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

” As the technique confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we require to use it where there are few alternatives 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.

Coverage of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– offered top priority.

The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which lots of scientists consider as more cost-effective and efficient technology.

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 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

Dedications made in the new strategy include:.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for uses that “do not add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. So, 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its concerns thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for space and warm 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 choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might also offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been published, the government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to enter the sector. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for private homes. These agreements are designed to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 method admits, there wont be substantial quantities 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. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this business 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 consultation, which has actually been released alongside the primary technique. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for business model.