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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Professionals have actually alerted 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 brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy provides more information on how the federal government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

Firm choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

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

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

Critics also 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 disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

The file contains 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

In its brand-new strategy, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential part of its net-zero plan, and says it desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, but covers a similar range to other research studies.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the impact 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 omitted.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government need to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Comparison of cost estimates throughout different innovation types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no reasonable policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

The brand-new strategy mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.


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

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

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

The CCC has actually alerted that policies need to develop both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses launched along with the main strategy, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

The government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle design aspects” of such requirements 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary element in market advancement”.

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which numerous researchers deem more cost-efficient and effective innovation.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and providing versatility to the power system.

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

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The new method is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the government to select its top priorities carefully.

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation 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.

However, the method likewise consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heatpump..

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competitors in 2021. Protection of the report and federal government advertising products emphasised that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Commitments made in the brand-new method include:. " As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top priority. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy may also provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? According to the governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to enter the sector. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for individual families. The new hydrogen technique validates that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary method. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization design to encourage private investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for the service design.