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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the level 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 consultation for the time being.

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

Professionals 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 industry as capacity expands.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

However, 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 areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at essentially zero.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, but covers a similar variety to other research studies.

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

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

Today we have actually published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire industry let loose the marketplace to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans concern fulfillment it could then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high costs and low efficiency..

The strategy also 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 decrease reliance on natural gas.

The document consists of 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The CCC has actually previously mentioned that the government needs to “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 co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known 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 states:.

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

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.


The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs launched together with the primary technique, reveals the expected decreasing 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% eco-friendly.).

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

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

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release 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)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main consider market development”.

The new method mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will offer “more information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

In the example selected for the consultation, natural gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were excluded..

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

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & with no sensible policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

Federal government analysis, included in the method, recommends 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.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and offering flexibility to the power system.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes.

It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Commitments made in the new technique include:.

However, the strategy likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to complete with electrical heat pumps..

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

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

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This is constant with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers view as more affordable and efficient innovation.

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

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 feasibly be produced.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– offered top concern.

” As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “left open” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its concerns thoroughly.

In the real report, the government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. The federal government is more positive about using 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 suggests. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise supply some clarity. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those must be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine 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 project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific homes. The new hydrogen strategy validates that this service design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary method. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its technique has actually been released, the federal government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. These agreements are developed to overcome the cost gap between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate private investment and a revenue system to offer financing for the service model. 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 strategy confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to enter the sector.