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

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 industry as capability expands.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

The plan likewise called for 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 dependence on natural gas.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high prices and low effectiveness..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

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

However, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

The file contains an expedition of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been aiming 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 strategy.

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 country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold 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 CCC has actually previously specified that the government ought to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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 argument”. He states:.

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched together with the main strategy, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The document does not do that and instead says it will offer “more information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

The federal government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, 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.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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


Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

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

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

The new method mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

It has actually likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for determining these emissions.

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the main element in market development”.

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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 competition in 2021.

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists consider as more cost-effective and effective technology. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top priority. " As the method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. This is 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. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its concerns thoroughly. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". The federal government is more positive about making use of 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 listed below suggests. 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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. The strategy also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and hot 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. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might also supply some clarity. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake 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 technique admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for individual households. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate personal investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for the business design. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to get in the sector. These contracts are created to overcome the expense gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Now that its method has been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released alongside the main technique.