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

Company 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 consultation for the time being.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Experts have 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 capacity expands.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the technique.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on natural gas.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

However, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

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

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments strategies concern fruition it might then broaden considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The document includes 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.

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

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

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

Its versatility means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high costs and low efficiency..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has cautioned that policies must develop both green and blue 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 takes a look at optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for computing these emissions.

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

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

The CCC has formerly specified “suitable emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 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 “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

Quick (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no practical regulations. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon 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 specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

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

The new method largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as … Read More.

In the example picked for the assessment, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were left out..

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 primary element in market development”.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

The file does not do that and rather states it will supply “additional information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

This opposition capped when a current research study led to headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

However, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. " As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The government is more positive about the 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. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading priority. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger vehicles. This follows the governments focus on electrical cars, which lots of researchers see as more affordable and efficient innovation. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Commitments made in the new method include:. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the government to select its priorities carefully. The strategy also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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 CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Protection of the report and government promotional products stressed that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing 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. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? " 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 function that brand-new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched along with the primary method. Now that its technique has been released, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for specific homes. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense gap in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to motivate personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the business model. Sharelines from this story. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.