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

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

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

Firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “aware of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

The document consists of 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 been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically zero.

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

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

Today we have actually 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 private capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for determining these emissions.

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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

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


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 consider market advancement”.

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

In the example picked for the assessment, natural gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were excluded..

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

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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:.

The new strategy largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released alongside the main method, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

Short (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any practical guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Comparison of price estimates across various technology types at main 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 “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas cost savings”.

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

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

So, my lovelies, I simply 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 merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the government to pick its concerns carefully.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for uses that “do not add the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Protection of the report and government promotional products stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers deem more effective and cost-efficient innovation. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. The technique likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests prospective 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. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized 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. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might also offer some clarity. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for individual families. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the primary strategy. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage personal investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the service design. These contracts are created to get rid of the expense space in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be substantial amounts 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater bills or public funds.