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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

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

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 postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, however covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

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

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock modifications.

The strategy also required 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 lower dependence on gas.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary technique, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

The plan notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.


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 says:.

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study caused headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

In the example picked for the assessment, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were omitted..

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 “think about carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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

The figure below from the consultation, based on 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 excluded.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government must “live to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the worldwide warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

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

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

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

Commitments made in the new technique include:.

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Protection of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The strategy likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading concern. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars, which many scientists consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the method confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise supply some clearness. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? 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 market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage private financial investment and an earnings system to offer financing for the service model. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released together with the main method. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private households. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are developed to overcome the expense space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap.