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

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

The UKs 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 essentially non-existent.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

Today we have actually published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start a whole industry let loose 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.

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

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

However, similar to most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

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 states it desires the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Its versatility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its most current suggestions, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The new technique mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit 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 left out.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched together with the main technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies should establish both green and blue alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

The federal government has released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Contrast of price quotes throughout various innovation types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

Many scientists and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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 aspect in market advancement”.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

Commitments made in the brand-new method include:.

However, in the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading priority. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Protection of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more economical and efficient innovation. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. " As the technique admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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 competitors in 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. The method also includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending as much as 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 research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures strategy may likewise supply some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service design will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the primary method. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, 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 greater expenses or public funds. Now that its method has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for private families. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage private investment and an income system to provide funding for the service model.