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

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy offers more information on how the federal government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is practically non-existent.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could satisfy up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Company choices around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Experts have actually warned 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 crucial points from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it might then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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”.

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

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

In its new method, the UK 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 “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire 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.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high costs and low efficiency..

As with most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government must “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

Short (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & with no sensible regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

It has also 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 method for computing these emissions.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a current research study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The plan notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the primary aspect in market advancement”.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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 argument”. He says:.


For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

The document does not do that and rather says it will provide “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

In the example picked for the assessment, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were excluded..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs launched along with the primary method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The brand-new method mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its priorities thoroughly. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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 competition in 2021. The method also includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many scientists see as more cost-efficient and effective technology. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 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 third of the size of the present power sector. " As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we need to use it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy might likewise offer some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. Hydrogen demand (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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released alongside the primary method. These contracts are created to conquer the expense space in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "very small" for individual families. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage private investment and an earnings mechanism to offer financing for the service model. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.".