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

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

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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

As the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

The file includes an expedition of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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 increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

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

Its versatility means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high prices and low performance..

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest suggestions, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on natural gas.

Nevertheless, just like many of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released together with the main method, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government need to “live to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing 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 offered..

The CCC has previously specified that the government ought to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035″ in its hydrogen strategy.

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

It has likewise released 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 approach for computing these emissions.

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 primary aspect in market development”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Comparison of cost quotes across various technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

This opposition capped when a current study led to headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.


The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The document does refrain from doing that and rather says it will provide “additional information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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

Supporting a range 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.

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

Quick (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025″..

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

” As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to use 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.

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

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends possible hydrogen need 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.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the existing power sector.

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

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric cars, which many scientists consider as more affordable and effective innovation.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided top priority.

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, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be crucial for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:. The technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. 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 add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method might likewise offer some clarity. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its technique has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced alongside the primary method. These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really small" for individual families. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate private investment and a profits system to supply financing for the business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, 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 higher expenses or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.