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

Specialists have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

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

Firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen method supplies more detail on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an important element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it could then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

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

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

Its flexibility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high rates and low efficiency..

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

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

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at virtually no.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Nevertheless, as with most of the governments net-zero method files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


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.

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies should establish both blue and green options, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

Short (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & with no practical guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary strategy, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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 “think about carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities 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 just carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually “left open” the door for usages that “do not include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of researchers deem more effective and affordable technology.

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be crucial for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation 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 present power sector.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt 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 prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and supplying versatility to the power system.

The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

In the real report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading concern. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its priorities carefully. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Protection of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might likewise provide some clearness. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. Sharelines from this story. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". The new hydrogen method validates that this service 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 assessment, which has actually been introduced alongside the main strategy. These agreements are developed to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press coverage 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 costs or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for individual families. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and an income mechanism to supply funding for business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake 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 strategy confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.