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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure 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 technique provides more information on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

Hydrogen will be “important” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a third of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Experts 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 market as capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “knowledgeable about a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most current recommendations, however covers a comparable variety to other studies.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it might then broaden considerably– comprising in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new market.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to begin slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the technique.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The new technique mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The CCC has actually previously specified “ideal emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 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 “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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

Supporting a range of jobs will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

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 primary factor in market advancement”.

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government should “live to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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


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

Short (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & without any reasonable regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

The figure listed below from the consultation, 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 methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for uses that “dont include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

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

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

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

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be limited to “areas less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

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

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

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

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

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

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

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

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

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which many researchers see as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states 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 demand [in industry] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may likewise offer some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. Now that its method has been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to encourage personal investment and an income mechanism to provide financing for the business model. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this organization 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 been released alongside the main strategy. These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very little" for individual homes. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption 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 method admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.