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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Experts have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

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 decrease reliance on natural gas.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans pertain to fruition it could then expand substantially– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

In its brand-new method, the UK federal 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.

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an essential component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Today we have actually published the UKs 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 tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Its flexibility suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high costs and low effectiveness..

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

However, similar to many of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.


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

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the impact 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 excluded.

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

The CCC has previously specified “suitable emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released alongside the main method, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will provide “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government need to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

The brand-new strategy largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

The government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “finalise design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be crucial for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which many scientists consider as more efficient and cost-efficient technology. " As the method confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Nevertheless, the method also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heatpump.. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its priorities carefully. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states 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 hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise provide some clearness. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced together with the main technique. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "very small" for private families. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the company model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption 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 method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.