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

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

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

On the other hand, company decisions 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 consultation for the time being.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it could then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

Today we have actually released the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start a whole industry let loose the market to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially no.

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

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest recommendations, however covers a similar range to other studies.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Its adaptability suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently suffers from high costs and low efficiency..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


The new technique largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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.

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

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

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for computing these emissions.

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released together with the main 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% renewable.).

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The CCC has warned that policies need to develop both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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 intensity as the main element in market development”.

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

This opposition capped when a current research study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:.

The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

However, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the government to select its priorities carefully. " As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which numerous scientists view as more effective and cost-efficient innovation. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The method also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states 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 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. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, 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 greater expenses or public funds. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the business model. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released along with the main strategy. These agreements are developed to get rid of the expense space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. " 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 role that new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to get in the sector. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:.