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

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

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

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

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

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

However, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans pertain to fulfillment it might then broaden significantly– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans 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.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, stating that the government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

The file contains an exploration 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire industry unleash 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.

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

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

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

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”.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact 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.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

This opposition capped when a recent study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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


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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

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

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

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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 argument”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released along with the primary technique, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

Brief (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government must “live to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the federal governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

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

The strategy likewise consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests 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.

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its concerns thoroughly. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. " As the technique confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to utilize it where there are few 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. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical cars, which lots of scientists see as more effective and cost-effective innovation. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The starting 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 currently utilized to heat UK houses. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top priority. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. 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. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may also provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense gap between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection 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 come from either greater costs or public funds. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal financial investment and an earnings system to supply financing for business design.