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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

On the other hand, firm choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen technique provides more information on how the government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

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.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a possible pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

Its versatility indicates it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the nations 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 needs, stating that the federal government should “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies need to establish both blue and green options, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

Quick (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a promise to “finalise style components” of such standards 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary factor in market development”.

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He states:.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Protection of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the federal governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. However, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided leading concern. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short term. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. Dedications made in the new technique consist of:. This remains 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 present power sector. " As the technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to use it where there are few alternatives 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. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This follows the governments focus on electric automobiles, which numerous scientists deem more economical and effective technology. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The strategy also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions 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 development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method may likewise provide some clearness. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to go into the sector. These agreements are developed to overcome the expense space between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for private households. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate private investment and a profits mechanism to offer financing for business model. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced along with the main technique. Now that its method has been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. Hydrogen demand (pink location) 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 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. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds.