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

On the other hand, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way 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 government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most current recommendations, however covers a similar range to other studies.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, stating that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

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

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

As the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon budget effect assessment and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

As with most of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Its versatility suggests it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

The brand-new method largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies should establish both green and blue choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main factor in market advancement”.

It has also 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 approach for determining these emissions.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any practical policies. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

Supporting a variety of jobs will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect 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 left out.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather states it will supply “additional detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.


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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials stressed that the governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the existing power sector.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and offering flexibility to the power system.

Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps..

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

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This is constant with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous researchers see as more affordable and efficient technology. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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 competition in 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks 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 practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its concerns carefully. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand 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. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody 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 equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". " As the method confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal 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. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might likewise provide some clarity. In order to develop 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 objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen demand (pink area) 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for the company design. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this business design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the main method. Much of the resulting press protection 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 money would come from either higher bills or public funds. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. These agreements are designed to overcome the cost space between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space.