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 method and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Its flexibility implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

However, similar to most of the governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “mindful of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

The document includes 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 aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have actually warned that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a vital element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon spending plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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 intensity as the primary consider market development”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

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

” If we desire to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then present 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.”.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

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

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

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for computing these emissions.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).


Comparison of rate estimates throughout various innovation types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will offer “more detail on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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

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

Dedications made in the new method include:.

However, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". " As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the government to select its priorities carefully. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The strategy likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which lots of scientists view as more effective and economical technology. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government expects << 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 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might likewise provide some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been released, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion 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 strategy admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "really little" for specific households. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this service design will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced alongside the main technique. These contracts are created to overcome the cost gap in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private investment and a profits mechanism to offer funding for business design. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.".