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

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

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent 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.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Experts have cautioned 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.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

The file 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 been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

The plan likewise called for 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 reduce dependence on gas.

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

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

Prior to the brand-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 capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually no.

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, however covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans concern fruition it could then expand substantially– comprising in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as … Read More.

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

The previous is basically zero-carbon, however the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the main strategy, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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 methodology for determining these emissions.

Brief (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & without any reasonable regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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 debate”. He states:.

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies need to develop both blue and green choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will provide “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

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

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

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

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 expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).


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

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

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

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

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and providing flexibility to the power system.

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

” As the strategy admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to use it where there are couple of 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 declaration.

Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had “left open” the door for uses that “dont add the most value for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products cars, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

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

Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals industry– given leading concern.

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

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars, which lots of researchers consider as more cost-effective and efficient innovation.

However, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:. The technique likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these limited 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 attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states 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 develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy may likewise offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its strategy has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to enter the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 method confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are developed to overcome the cost space between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage private investment and an earnings mechanism to provide funding for the company design. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for individual households. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released alongside the primary technique.