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

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

On the other hand, firm decisions 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 assessment for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might use up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Professionals 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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand substantially– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

Its versatility implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

The plan also called for 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 decrease reliance on gas.

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

Today we have released the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start a whole industry unleash the market to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, specifying that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “mindful of a possible pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

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

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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 intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government should “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

” If we want to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses launched alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

The file does not do that and instead says it will provide “additional detail on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

The new method mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states 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 co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must develop both blue and green alternatives, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.


The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent study resulted in headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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

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

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

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

It has also 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 method for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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

It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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

My lovelies, I just 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, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Coverage of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends 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. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. 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 third of the size of the existing power sector. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Commitments made in the new technique consist of:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products cars, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] we require to use it where there are couple of options 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. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous scientists deem more affordable and efficient innovation. The method also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. " Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method may also provide some clearness. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 admits, there will not be significant quantities 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. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. The new hydrogen technique validates that this business model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the primary strategy. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are created to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "really small" for private households. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate personal investment and a revenue mechanism to supply financing for business model. Sharelines from this story.