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

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

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

On the other hand, company choices around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Professionals have actually cautioned 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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

Today we have released the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire market let loose the marketplace to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

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

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

The document contains 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 actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

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

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden significantly– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically no.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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


The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the main method, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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 primary consider 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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

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

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies must establish both blue and green choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the worldwide warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

The government is more optimistic about the use of 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 below shows.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and providing flexibility to the power system.

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Nevertheless, the technique likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heatpump..

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial 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.

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

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

Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous scientists view as more affordable and efficient innovation.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 existing power sector. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. " As the technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method 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 choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility 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 strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts 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. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate private financial investment and an income mechanism to provide financing for business design. Now that its technique has been published, the government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched along with the primary strategy. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap.