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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Professionals have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent suggestions, but covers a similar range to other research studies.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and vehicle stock changes.

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on natural gas.

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

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 strategy, and states it wants the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Its versatility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an essential component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

The document consists of an expedition of how the UK will expand production and create a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

However, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then expand considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Prior to the brand-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 practically absolutely no.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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.).

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 methodology for calculating these emissions.

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the government ought to “be alive to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released along with the primary method, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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

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


The new technique largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

” If we want to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment 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 competitors in 2021.

Nevertheless, the method also includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to complete with electric heatpump..

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many researchers deem more economical and effective technology. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given top priority. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen demand 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. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". " As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to use it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns carefully. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Dedications made in the new strategy include:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. 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 use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures technique may also provide some clearness. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. These agreements are designed to conquer the cost space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. Now that its method has actually been published, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and a revenue system to supply financing for the organization design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the industry would be "very small" for individual families. Hydrogen need (pink location) 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 method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the primary method. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms.