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

Meanwhile, 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 delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Specialists have actually warned 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.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an important element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released previously this year.

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high prices and low efficiency..

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

The file consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and produce a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin gradually, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the strategy.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

However, as with many of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The brand-new technique mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit 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.

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

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

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no sensible regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will provide “more information on our production method and twin track method 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 “consider carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study led to headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government should “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched along with the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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


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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The CCC has actually warned that policies must develop both green and blue alternatives, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

In the example chosen for the consultation, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were left out..

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

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

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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

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

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities carefully.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals industry– offered leading priority.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Dedications made in the new technique include:. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous researchers view as more efficient and economical innovation. The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The technique also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. " As the strategy admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions 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 approaching heat and structures method might also provide some clarity. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The new hydrogen technique confirms that this company model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the primary method. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for business intending to get in the sector. Now that its technique has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. These contracts are developed to conquer the cost gap in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings mechanism to offer financing for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for specific households. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink location) 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 confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.