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

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 essentially non-existent.

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

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

Professionals have warned 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 capability expands.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might consume to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on gas.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– using up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

The document 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire market release the marketplace to cut costs ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “mindful of a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

However, 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 areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

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

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

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently experiences high costs and low efficiency..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

Quick (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually badly & & without any practical regulations. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

The strategy mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The strategy keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The CCC has alerted that policies should develop both green and blue alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government ought to “be alive to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The brand-new method mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

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


The CCC has actually previously specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

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

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 argument”. He says:.

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

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

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the government to select its top priorities carefully. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Coverage of the report and government marketing products stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. The federal government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competition in 2021. " As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we need to use 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 CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading concern. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since 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 brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers see as more effective and cost-effective innovation. Nevertheless, the method likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy might also provide some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific families. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released alongside the primary method. These contracts are created to conquer the expense gap in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage 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 strategy confesses, there will not be significant amounts 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. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the organization design. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story.