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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Professionals have actually 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 capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

However, just like many of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “aware of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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 strategy, and says it desires the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

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

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role 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 forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The document does not do that and instead states it will provide “more information on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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.).

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

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a current study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

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 threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The CCC has previously mentioned that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen readily available..

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 element in market development”.


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

The brand-new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the worldwide warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

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

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to use it where there are couple of alternatives 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. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. 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, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers view as more efficient and cost-efficient technology. Dedications made in the brand-new method include:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. 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". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided leading concern. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to select its top priorities thoroughly. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The technique also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states 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, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method might also provide some clearness. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for individual homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate private investment and an earnings system to offer funding for business design. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, 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 plan] and net-zero commitments.". The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, 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 costs or public funds. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms.