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

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a 3rd of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Professionals have warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently struggles with high rates and low effectiveness..

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

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

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 released 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 assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

Business 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 pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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 strategy, and states it desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, however covers a comparable range to other studies.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, specifying that the government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

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

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

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at essentially absolutely no.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

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

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 strength as the main aspect in market advancement”.

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

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched along with the main technique, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The figure 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 excluded.

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

It has actually also released 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 calculating these emissions.

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a current study led to headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs 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 states:.

Supporting a variety of tasks will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as … Read More.

The new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to federal government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its top priorities thoroughly.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electric cars, which many scientists consider as more effective and affordable technology.

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and providing versatility to the power system.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the method confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top concern. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial 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. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump.. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Protection of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The government is more optimistic about the usage 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 below shows. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be crucial for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Dedications made in the new technique include:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need 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 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also provide some clearness. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings mechanism to offer financing for business model. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this service design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. Now that its method has been published, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. " 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 function that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds.