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

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

Company decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Professionals have actually warned 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 capability expands.

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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

The strategy likewise required 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 gas.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it might then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included 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.

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

Its versatility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently struggles with high prices and low performance..

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an important element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a possible 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 crucial part of its net-zero plan, and says it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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

The new method mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies must establish both blue and green alternatives, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … Read More.

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

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

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 “think about carbon intensity as the primary element in market development”.

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells 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 states:.

The file does not do that and rather states it will offer “more information on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released together with the primary technique, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

Short (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

It has actually likewise 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 approach for calculating these emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present 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 total.”.


The CCC has previously specified “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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 excluded.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers consider as more effective and economical innovation. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests possible 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. Nevertheless, the technique also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump.. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading concern. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. 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 use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to choose its concerns thoroughly. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality 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 anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method might also offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. 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 cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. These contracts are developed to conquer the expense space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the main technique. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and a profits system to offer funding for business model. Sharelines from this story. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "very small" for individual families. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.