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

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

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

Professionals 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 capability expands.

Company decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure 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 might fulfill up to a 3rd of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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 costs and low effectiveness..

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

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on gas.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

The file consists of an exploration of how the UK will expand production and produce a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar range to other studies.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The file does not do that and rather says it will supply “additional information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a range of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The figure below from the consultation, 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & with no sensible regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The new method largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.


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

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched alongside the main method, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to develop both blue and green alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

It has actually also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for determining these emissions.

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

Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “exposed” the door for usages that “do not add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

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

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 third of the size of the present power sector.

Protection of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars and trucks. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which lots of scientists view as more effective and economical technology.

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Nevertheless, the method likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

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

Call for 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 competition in 2021.

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

It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals industry– offered top concern.

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

In the real report, the government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method might also provide some clarity. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are developed to conquer the expense space in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the primary strategy. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate personal investment and an income system to offer funding for business model. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "very small" for private homes. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. Now that its method has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. Sharelines from this story.