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

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

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 essentially non-existent.

Company choices around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Specialists 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 market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

The document consists of an exploration of how the UK will broaden 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.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

As with many of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

In its new strategy, 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 nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest suggestions, however covers a comparable variety to other studies.

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

Today we have published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole 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.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “mindful of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The file does not do that and instead states it will offer “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

This opposition came to a head when a current study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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


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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

Short (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

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 strength as the main element in market development”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon 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.

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

Environmental groups and many researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The CCC has actually warned that policies must develop both green and blue alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities 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 just co2.

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from gas facilities and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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 called … Read More.

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 market lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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:.

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

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for computing these emissions.

The strategy keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen available..

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

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger vehicles. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation.

Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:.

” As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

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 usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

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

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be crucial for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Call for 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 competition in 2021.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

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)".. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "left open" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. The technique also includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. Government analysis, included in the method, recommends potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those should 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 might likewise offer some clearness. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business aiming to go into the sector. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 strategy confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for the service model. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the main technique. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very small" for specific families. These agreements are created to conquer the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story.