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

Specialists have actually cautioned 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.

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

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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

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 blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on natural gas.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, stating that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, but covers a similar range to other studies.

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

The file contains 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 been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the government need to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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 “consider carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses launched alongside the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

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

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

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


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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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 omitted.

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

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather states it will provide “additional information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

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

In the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading priority. The 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. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. " As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] 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 programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The method likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Commitments made in the new technique include:. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which many researchers view as more efficient and cost-effective technology. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to select its priorities thoroughly. Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may likewise provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Lastly, in order to develop 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 aim to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. These contracts are developed to get rid of the cost space between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its method has actually been released, the government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the main technique. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and a profits system to provide financing for the service model. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for private families.

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