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

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

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

Specialists have alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, stating that the government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to begin slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, however covers a similar range to other research studies.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

The document consists of an expedition of how the UK will expand production and produce a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority 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 extensive explainer.).

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

However, as with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

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

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for determining these emissions.

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

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

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

The CCC has formerly mentioned that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different 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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called … Read More.


The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the main technique, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

The new technique mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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 “consider carbon strength as the main consider market advancement”.

In the example chosen for the assessment, natural gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

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

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

The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has actually not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to pick its concerns carefully.

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Require proof 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.

So, 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 use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Dedications made in the new technique consist of:.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– given top concern.

Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

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 reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 transportation-- especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which many researchers view as more effective and economical technology. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. " As the method confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Protection of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. However, the technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electric heat pumps.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. Government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise offer some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization model to encourage personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to supply financing for business model. The new hydrogen method verifies that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced together with the main method. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very little" for specific homes. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. These agreements are developed to overcome the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to go into the sector. Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:.