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

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

Company decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Experts have alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

However, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to begin slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Today we have published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole industry let loose the marketplace to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar range to other studies.

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

Comparison of price estimates across different technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a range of assumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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 element in market advancement”.

The document does not do that and instead says it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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


Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs released alongside the main technique, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

Quick (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & without any practical policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government should “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. The method also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers view as more cost-effective and efficient technology. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". The government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its concerns carefully. Call for 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 competitors in 2021. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Dedications made in the new method include:. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top priority. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage 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 technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate private financial investment and an earnings mechanism to provide funding for the business model. The new hydrogen technique validates that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the main method. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "really small" for individual homes. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. Now that its method has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. These agreements are developed to get rid of the expense space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new overseas wind farms.