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

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

On the other hand, company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Specialists 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 market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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 “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest suggestions, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

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

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy 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 essentially no.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Its flexibility means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for computing these emissions.

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

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle style elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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


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

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

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

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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

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

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

Quick (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually badly & & with no sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The CCC has previously defined “ideal emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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 dispute”. He states:.

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

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

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

The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

The technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities carefully.

However, the beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

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

Protection of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers see as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation.

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

Dedications made in the new method include:.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor 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:.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

However, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top priority. Government analysis, included in the method, suggests possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise supply some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 strategy admits, there will not be substantial 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. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense space between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The new hydrogen method verifies that this service design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released together with the primary strategy. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen organization design to motivate personal financial investment and an income system to offer financing for the business model. Sharelines from this story. Now that its technique has been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for private households.