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

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Experts have actually warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

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 virtually non-existent.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and analyzes a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the technique.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

In its 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 wants the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The document contains an expedition 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.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies concern fulfillment it could then expand considerably– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The strategy keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -allowed 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary element in market advancement”.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

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 really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The previous is essentially 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 catch 100% of emissions..

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

The document does not do that and instead states it will supply “further detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

It has actually also launched 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 calculating these emissions.

The brand-new technique mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

This opposition came to a head when a current research study caused headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no reasonable guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the main technique, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).


The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its top priorities carefully.

The method likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps..

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Protection of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

This remains 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.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which many scientists deem more affordable and effective technology.

Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals industry– offered leading priority.

However, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices 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. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Lastly, in order to develop 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 decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise supply some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to encourage private investment and an income mechanism to supply funding for the service model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to get rid of the cost space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for specific households. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main method.