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

Company choices around the degree 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.

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Professionals have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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 expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

In its new technique, 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 “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to begin slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on natural gas.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most current advice, however covers a comparable range to other research studies.

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

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

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high costs and low performance..

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling 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..

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “further information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

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

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

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


The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrast of rate quotes across different innovation types at central fuel prices 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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

In the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. However, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is consistent with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous researchers consider as more effective and economical innovation. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, 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. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading concern. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to pick its priorities carefully. " As the strategy admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some 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 declaration. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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 competitors in 2021. Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be crucial for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. " Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". The strategy also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might also provide some clarity. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and an earnings system to supply funding for the business model. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for private families. Much of the resulting press protection 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 come from either higher expenses or public funds. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The new hydrogen technique confirms that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the main technique. These agreements are developed to conquer the cost space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 strategy admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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.