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

Experts have warned that, with hydrogen in brief 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 new, long-awaited hydrogen method supplies more detail on how the federal government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is practically non-existent.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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 delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

In its brand-new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero strategy, and says it desires the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest suggestions, but covers a similar range to other studies.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

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

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

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

Its versatility means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high prices and low performance..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government need to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

Supporting a range of projects will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

The former is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched together with the primary technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

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 main aspect in market development”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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


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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used 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.).

In the example selected for the consultation, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were left out..

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

It has likewise 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 methodology for computing these emissions.

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

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

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:.

The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

This remains 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.

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

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric cars, which lots of researchers consider as more effective and affordable innovation.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for usages that “do not include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

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

” As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has 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 determined through pilots and trials.”.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

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

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

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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.

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its top priorities carefully.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The federal government is more optimistic about using 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 listed below shows. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise provide some clarity. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the main strategy. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable 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. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual homes. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage personal financial investment and an income system to offer funding for the company model.