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

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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and examines a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

On the other hand, firm decisions around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Experts have warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

The document consists of an exploration of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on natural gas.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

Its versatility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently struggles with high costs and low performance..

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

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

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

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically absolutely no.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The figure below from the consultation, 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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 development”.

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

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the main method, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

Short (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any reasonable regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

Contrast of rate estimates throughout various technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study caused headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “further detail on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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


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

Environmental groups and many researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

The new strategy mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its top priorities thoroughly.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything 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. The new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers consider as more effective and cost-efficient innovation. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top concern. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The technique also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also provide some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the primary method. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar facility to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been released, the government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. These agreements are designed to get rid of the expense gap between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.".