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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could utilize up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

In its brand-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 nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically absolutely no.

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

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

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it could then broaden significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Its flexibility implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently suffers from high costs and low efficiency..

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has previously stated that the federal government ought to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

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

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

Brief (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no sensible regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will lower 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 regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

It has 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 approach for computing these emissions.

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

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

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main method, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

Contrast of cost quotes across different technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

This opposition came to a head when a recent study resulted in headings stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.


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”.

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government need to “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

Government analysis, included in the technique, suggests potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

However, 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 fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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. Dedications made in the new technique include:. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation 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. Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to select its priorities thoroughly. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which many scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Nevertheless, the method likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump.. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique may also provide some clarity. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for individual households. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to motivate personal investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for the service model. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Now that its strategy has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced together with the main technique. 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are designed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap.