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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Specialists have alerted 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 capability expands.

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

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

Company decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage 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 need a hydrogen technique?

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 actually been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on gas.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

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

Today we have published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole industry unleash the marketplace to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar range to other studies.

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

As the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

In its brand-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 states it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget impact evaluation and the full range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

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

It has likewise released 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 method for determining these emissions.

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released alongside the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The strategy notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The file does not do that and instead states it will provide “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..


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

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:.

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

The CCC has actually warned that policies need to develop both blue and green choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

The new technique largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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 main factor in market advancement”.

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

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

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

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

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Require proof 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. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Nevertheless, the method also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heatpump.. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. The new method is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:. " As the technique admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we require to utilize 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 statement. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly. The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric cars, which many researchers consider as more efficient and economical innovation. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures strategy may likewise provide some clearness. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to go into the sector. " 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 function that new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost gap between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The new hydrogen method verifies that this business model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released alongside the primary technique. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen service model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings mechanism to provide financing for business model. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for specific homes.