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

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

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

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 states it desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high costs and low efficiency..

However, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans pertain to fruition it could then expand considerably– comprising in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on gas.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

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

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead says it will offer “further information on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

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


The CCC has warned that policies need to establish both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

The federal government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “settle design components” of such standards by early 2022.

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

Quick (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & with no practical policies. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

Contrast of cost estimates throughout various technology types at central fuel costs 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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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”.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

The new method mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming potential that emphasised 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 stated it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.

It has likewise 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 determining these emissions.

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

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, 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 techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

Coverage of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “do not include the most value for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical automobiles, which numerous researchers deem more efficient and affordable technology.

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

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

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

The starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private financial investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading concern. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we require to utilize it where there are few options 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. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The strategy also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Call for 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 competitors in 2021. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method may also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings system to provide funding for business model. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "very small" for specific homes. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to enter the sector. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Sharelines from this story. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher bills or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced alongside the main method. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake 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 admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.