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

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

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

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

Firm choices around the level 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.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on gas.

In its brand-new technique, the UK 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.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

As with most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually warned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high rates and low performance..

The file includes an expedition 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 looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.


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 factor in market advancement”.

The new method mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold 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 excluded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government need to “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

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

Comparison of rate quotes across various technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a range of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

However, the beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

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

It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars, which numerous scientists consider as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Protection of the report and government promotional products stressed that the federal governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. " As the method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Dedications made in the brand-new method include:. Nevertheless, the technique also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody 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 use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has actually not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to pick its concerns carefully. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 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 governments approaching heat and buildings technique might likewise supply some clearness. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for specific households. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to motivate personal financial investment and an earnings system to provide funding for the company design. The new hydrogen method verifies that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced alongside the main technique. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. " This will provide 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 technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are developed to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. 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 method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. Now that its method has been published, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms.