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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Professionals have actually alerted 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 new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy provides more detail on how the government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies concern fruition it might then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the full range is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

In its brand-new method, 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 country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of needs, mentioning that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

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

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

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.


For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

It has 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 approach for determining these emissions.

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

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 argument”. He says:.

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government need to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a range of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually committed to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

The CCC has alerted that policies must establish both blue and green options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold 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.

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle style components” of such requirements by early 2022.

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market development”.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present the 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 complete.”.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

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

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

It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. " As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous scientists deem more economical and effective innovation. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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 competitors in 2021. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its top priorities carefully. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. Coverage of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Nevertheless, the technique also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heatpump.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 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%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings technique may also offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its strategy has been published, the government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched together with the main strategy. These contracts are developed to overcome the expense gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for private households. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage 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 method admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, 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 greater costs or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization design to encourage personal investment and a profits system to provide financing for business 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 new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.".