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

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

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

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

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 assessment for the time being.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

The file consists of 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 been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

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

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on natural gas.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to begin slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs released alongside the primary technique, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

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

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 industry lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

The CCC has formerly specified that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.


There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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 states:.

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

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

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– stated that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “more information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

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

My lovelies, I just 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 merit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

However, the technique also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electric heat pumps..

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

The new method is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

” As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to use it where there are few options 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 CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars, which numerous scientists consider as more affordable and effective innovation. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices 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 competition in 2021. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of 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 listed below indicates. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its concerns carefully. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already readily available ... those should be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms 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 assessment, which has actually been launched together with the main method. " This will offer 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 might play in achieving the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization design to motivate private investment and an earnings system to supply funding for business design. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, 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 higher costs or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for specific families. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:.