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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage 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 short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget effect evaluation and the full range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

As the chart listed below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

The document contains an exploration of how the UK will expand production and produce a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government ought to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals the impact 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 left out.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

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 atmosphere, an amount known as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He says:.

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

The document does not do that and rather says it will offer “further information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.


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

The strategy mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, 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”.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched along with the main technique, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study resulted in headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

Quick (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & with no sensible guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and providing versatility to the power system.

The technique also includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “left open” the door for usages that “do not include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electric cars, which numerous scientists view as more affordable and effective technology.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– provided top priority.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Dedications made in the brand-new method include:.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

” As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

However, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for space and warm 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 states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also supply some clarity. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and a revenue system to provide financing for business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to get in the sector. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion 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 technique admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. These contracts are developed to overcome the expense space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this business model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the main strategy. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for private homes. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms.