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

Professionals 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 industry as capacity expands.

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

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

On the other hand, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

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

Today we have published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire market release the market to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government must “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Prior to the brand-new method, 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. Presently, this capability stands at practically no.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

Its flexibility implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high rates and low performance..

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen readily available..

Comparison of rate quotes across various technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the worldwide warming potential. Co2 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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies should establish both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CCC has actually formerly defined “ideal emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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

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

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 strength as the primary consider market development”.


However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The strategy states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

It has likewise launched 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 method for calculating these emissions.

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

The new method mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs released together with the main method, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and offering flexibility to the power system.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

The federal government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests.

” As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Protection of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products cars, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

However, the technique also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to complete with electrical heatpump..

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Dedications made in the new strategy include:.

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals market– offered leading concern.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices 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 competitors in 2021.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has not clearly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This is constant with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists see as more affordable and efficient technology. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method might likewise offer some clearness. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for individual homes. Now that its technique has actually been released, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. The new hydrogen method confirms that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched together with the primary strategy. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are created to conquer the cost gap in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and an income system to supply funding for the business model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to enter the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage 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 method confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.".