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

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

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen technique provides more information on how the 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 crucial points from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans concern fruition it could then expand significantly– comprising in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

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

The document contains 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 been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at essentially no.

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, however covers a comparable range to other research studies.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The file does not do that and instead says it will offer “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

The new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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 intensity as the main aspect in market advancement”.

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

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

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert 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 commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.


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

This opposition capped when a recent study caused headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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:.

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

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

Comparison of price quotes throughout 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 states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

The CCC has alerted that policies must establish both blue and green options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

Short (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & with no reasonable policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The 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 “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

” As the technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize 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 declaration.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electric vehicles, which many scientists see as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation.

It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

However, the method also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heat pumps..

Dedications made in the new technique include:.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short term.

However, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 competition in 2021. Coverage of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and supplying flexibility to the power system. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. Government analysis, included in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to pick its priorities carefully. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage private financial investment and a profits system to provide financing for the business model. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for specific households. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. These contracts are developed to get rid of the expense gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the primary technique. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. " This will provide us a 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 attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its technique has actually been published, the government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms.