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

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

On the other hand, company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually 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 should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy supplies 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 “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might use up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios 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 file contains an exploration of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

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

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 need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

Its adaptability implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

As the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market development”.

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

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

The brand-new technique mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

It has actually also launched 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 calculating these emissions.

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & with no sensible regulations. And then 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 actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary strategy, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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 omitted.

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

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


The document does not do that and instead states it will offer “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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 debate”. He says:.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government need 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 technology”.

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

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

My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market” and providing versatility to the power system.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests.

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

Nevertheless, the strategy likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heatpump..

Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Coverage of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for usages that “dont include the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

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

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous scientists deem more affordable and effective innovation.

” As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method may likewise provide some clearness. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its method has been published, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business aiming to get in the sector. These agreements are created to get rid of the cost space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final 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 method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage private financial investment and an income mechanism to provide funding for business model. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this company design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the primary strategy. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds.