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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

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

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 virtually non-existent.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent suggestions, however covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

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

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

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on natural gas.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

Its versatility means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of needs, specifying that the government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have actually warned that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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 plan, and says it desires the nation to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually badly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The file does not do that and rather says it will provide “further detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022″.

It has actually 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 methodology for determining these emissions.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

Contrast of cost quotes across different innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

In the example picked for the consultation, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the main consider market development”.

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 argument”. He states:.

This opposition came to a head when a current study resulted in headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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

The plan notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The new technique mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the government ought to “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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 specified “ideal emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold 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 omitted.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.


Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

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

Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". 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 current power sector. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The federal government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The method likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. " As the method admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which many scientists consider as more efficient and cost-effective technology. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities carefully. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise offer some clarity. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to produce 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 last choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has been released, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage 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 industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be significant amounts 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. The new hydrogen method verifies that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched together with the primary strategy. These contracts are created to get rid of the expense gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. " This will give 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 achieving the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual households. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization design to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to offer funding for the organization design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater bills or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "developed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to go into the sector.