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

Professionals have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage 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.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page technique and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Hydrogen will be “critical” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

As with many of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

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

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 strategy, and states it wants the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

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

The document contains an expedition of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has formerly specified that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

The brand-new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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 “think about carbon strength as the primary element in market advancement”.

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

This opposition came to a head when a current research study led to headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen available..


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

Short (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no practical policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released together with the main method, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

This remains 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 third of the size of the current power sector.

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

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which lots of scientists deem more efficient and affordable technology.

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

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

” As the strategy admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to use it where there are few options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

However, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The method also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 new method consist of:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top concern. The government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may also offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. " This will provide 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 innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a comparable premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. Now that its method has actually been published, the government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this company model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched along with the primary method. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 technique confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. These agreements are created to conquer the expense space between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue system to offer financing for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really little" for individual families.