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

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a third of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the technique is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, however covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

However, similar to the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

The strategy 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 minimize dependence on gas.

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

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy 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 absolutely no.

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 says it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then expand significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, mentioning that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide 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.

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 intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs released alongside the main method, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

The figure listed 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 methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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


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

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

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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 says:.

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

It has likewise 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 method for computing these emissions.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government should “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

The federal government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The brand-new strategy largely avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, the technique also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps..

Dedications made in the new technique include:.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

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

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". The new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers see as more economical and effective innovation. Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. " As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to use it where there are couple of 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 government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. So, my lovelies, I simply 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 merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently offered ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise provide some clearness. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? These agreements are developed to overcome the expense space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake 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 method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for business intending to go into the sector. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage private financial investment and an income system to provide financing for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this company design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main method. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.".