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

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

Company choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a third of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest recommendations, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

Today we have published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy 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.

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and says it wants the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Its versatility implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

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

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

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

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans pertain to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– comprising in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “further information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

This opposition capped when a recent research study led to headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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 main consider market development”.

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

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

The former is basically zero-carbon, however 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..

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

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact 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.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government must “live to the threat of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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 argument”. He states:.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released alongside the primary technique, shows 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% sustainable.).

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


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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The CCC has alerted that policies should develop both green and blue alternatives, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

Supporting a variety 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.

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

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading concern. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which numerous scientists deem more effective and economical technology. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. 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 third of the size of the existing power sector. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. However, the strategy likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps.. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending approximately 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 feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might also offer some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are designed to conquer the cost space between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really small" for specific families. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to encourage personal investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for business design. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the main method. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.

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