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

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

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

Firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Experts have alerted 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 capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

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

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the technique.

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then expand significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

In its new method, 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 country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The file consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

As with most of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of needs, stating that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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


” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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 debate”. He says:.

The federal government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a pledge to “settle style aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for calculating these emissions.

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

This opposition capped when a current research study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

Contrast of price estimates throughout different innovation types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

The brand-new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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 main consider market development”.

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The previous is basically 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 record 100% of emissions..

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

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

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. 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 present power sector. Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which lots of scientists deem more affordable and efficient innovation. The method likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top priority. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. " As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to select its priorities thoroughly. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method may likewise offer some clearness. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending 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? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for individual households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final 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 confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are developed to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Now that its method has been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for the service model. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released together with the primary technique. " 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 brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story.