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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page strategy and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Professionals have actually warned 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.

Company decisions around the level of hydrogen usage 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.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it might then broaden considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The file includes 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

In its new technique, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and states it wants the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, but covers a similar range to other research studies.

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole industry release the marketplace to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

Prior to the new method, 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. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The brand-new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a range of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The plan notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting a variety of jobs will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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 debate”. He says:.

This opposition came to a head when a recent study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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

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 upon this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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 strength as the main consider market development”.

The government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle style components” of such requirements by early 2022.

Comparison of price quotes across different innovation types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs launched together with the main method, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The former 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 catch 100% of emissions..

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method.

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had “left open” the door for uses that “dont include the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

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

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. " As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its priorities thoroughly. Nevertheless, the technique also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heat pumps.. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is constant with the governments focus on electric vehicles, which lots of researchers deem more efficient and cost-effective technology. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for area and warm 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 states it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job 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 research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique might likewise provide some clarity. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? 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 evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "built on a comparable property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the primary technique. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Now that its method has actually been released, the government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for private homes. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.".