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

Experts have actually 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.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

The UKs brand-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 essentially non-existent.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fruition it could then expand significantly– using up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

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

In its brand-new technique, 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 desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

Its versatility implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently experiences high rates and low performance..

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as a crucial component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

The new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs launched along with the primary method, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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 risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.


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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount understood as … Read More.

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the impact 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 left out.

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any practical policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs 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:.

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

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

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

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

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 intensity as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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..

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

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

Coverage of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This follows the governments focus on electric cars, which many researchers see as more cost-efficient and effective innovation.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

” As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

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

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Nevertheless, the technique likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021.

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

The federal government is more optimistic about the use of 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 suggests.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy 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 area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise supply some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for the business model. Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate 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 expense gap in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen technique validates that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the main method. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.".