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

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

Experts have actually 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 capacity expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “aware of a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest recommendations, however covers a comparable variety to other studies.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

The document contains an expedition of how the UK will broaden 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.

Today we have actually published 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 tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

However, just like many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The plan likewise required 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 decrease dependence on natural gas.

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at essentially absolutely no.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 strength as the primary consider market development”.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the main strategy, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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


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

The figure listed below from the assessment, 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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

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

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to develop both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

Contrast of price quotes throughout various technology types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Supporting a range of projects will offer the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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:.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but 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..

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

The method likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps..

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

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

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the federal governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal 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 current applications– such as the chemicals industry– offered top concern.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

This is 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 current power sector.

Commitments made in the new method consist of:.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which many researchers deem more effective and affordable technology. " As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to choose its top priorities thoroughly. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise provide some clearness. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The new hydrogen method validates that this company design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the primary strategy. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for individual homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. These contracts are created to get rid of the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage private financial investment and an income system to provide funding for business design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater bills or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story.