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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Specialists have actually alerted 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 capability expands.

Firm decisions around the degree 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 assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, mentioning that the federal government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest suggestions, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently suffers from high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

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

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

In its brand-new method, 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 country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

In some applications, hydrogen will compete with electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the finest methods of decarbonisation.

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

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

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

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

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

The new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.


The CCC has actually previously specified “ideal emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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 “consider carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead says it will offer “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

Quick (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & without any 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 chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released along with the primary strategy, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The strategy notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025″..

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

This opposition came to a head when a current research study caused headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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

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

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leak and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The CCC has warned that policies must develop both green and blue choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold 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.

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " As the technique confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading concern. Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the brief term. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which numerous researchers see as more affordable and effective innovation. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Commitments made in the new strategy include:. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to pick its priorities thoroughly. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. However, the strategy likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heat pumps.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand 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. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise offer some clearness. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for individual homes. These contracts are created to overcome the expense space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its method has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to motivate private investment and a profits system to provide financing for business design. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the primary method.