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

Professionals have actually cautioned 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.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The document includes an expedition 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 seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

Its adaptability suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Short (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 formerly specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, however the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not record 100% of emissions..

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

This opposition capped when a current research study caused headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on really high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The brand-new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses launched alongside the main method, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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 “consider carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

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 dispute”. He states:.

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

The document does not do that and rather says it will provide “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

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

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

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

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

Nevertheless, 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)".. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers consider as more cost-effective and effective innovation. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top priority. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. 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 choose its top priorities thoroughly. The beginning point for the variety-- 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 homes. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Coverage of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. " As the technique admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electric heat pumps.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique may also provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its method has been released, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. Sharelines from this story. These agreements are created to get rid of the cost space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this business model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced alongside the main strategy. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last 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 market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private households. " This will provide 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 innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to motivate personal financial investment and an income system to offer funding for business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds.