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

On the other hand, company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Experts have actually warned 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 capacity expands.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might use up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

However, just like most of the governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, specifying 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.

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

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

The file includes an expedition 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 aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The plan notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025″..

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

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

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “additional information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

The brand-new method largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

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

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


The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for determining these emissions.

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells 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 says:.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released along with the main strategy, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– stated that, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the main factor in market development”.

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

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

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

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

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Commitments made in the new strategy include:.

So, 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Government analysis, included 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 increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

However, the strategy likewise consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps..

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electric automobiles, which numerous scientists consider as more affordable and effective innovation. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. " As the method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy may likewise supply some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake 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 quantities 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. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. 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 money would come from either higher bills or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for private families. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate personal financial investment and a profits system to offer funding for business design. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been published, the government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. These agreements are developed to overcome the expense gap in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to get in the sector. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this company model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the primary strategy.