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

On the other hand, company choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

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

Professionals have alerted 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.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

The strategy likewise required 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 minimize dependence on gas.

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “finalise style elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The CCC has actually 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 strategy.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released along with the main strategy, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The figure listed below from the assessment, 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 methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.


The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

It has actually also released 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.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government must “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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 catch 100% of emissions..

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

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– provided leading priority.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

Protection of the report and government promotional products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “do not include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. However, the technique likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heat pumps.. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending 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 committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of researchers see as more affordable and efficient technology. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short term. " As the technique admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures technique might also provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private households. Sharelines from this story. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, 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 higher costs or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private investment and an earnings system to offer funding for the company model. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final 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 strategy admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are developed to overcome the cost gap in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the main strategy. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms.