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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure 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 could fulfill up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

Prior to the brand-new technique, 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. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually absolutely no.

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

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in lots of sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a vital element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have actually warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire industry 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.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most current guidance, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has actually also launched 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 method for determining these emissions.

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the main technique, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government should “live to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The CCC has actually warned that policies must develop both blue and green alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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 argument”. He states:.

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

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 primary aspect in market development”.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit 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 researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The brand-new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both varieties.

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

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which many scientists see as more effective and cost-efficient innovation.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its priorities carefully. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for uses that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests potential hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Coverage of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". " As the method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. This remains 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. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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 competition in 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top priority. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. So, 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 benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might also provide some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate personal financial investment and a profits system to offer funding for business design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage 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 amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen technique validates that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the main method. Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. These agreements are designed to conquer the cost space in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space.