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

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

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

Professionals have alerted 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 capacity expands.

Hydrogen will be “important” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Its flexibility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high prices and low efficiency..

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

In its brand-new strategy, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential part of its net-zero plan, and states it wants the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

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

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

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, however covers a comparable range to other research studies.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Brief (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & with no sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The CCC has formerly mentioned 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 method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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


” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The brand-new strategy mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The document does not do that and rather says it will supply “additional detail on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact 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 omitted.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government ought to “be alive to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs launched along with the main method, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

Supporting a range of jobs will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

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

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 “think about carbon intensity as the primary element in market development”.

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

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

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

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its concerns thoroughly.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous scientists view as more economical and effective innovation. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. The technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". " As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method might also supply some clarity. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze 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 job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? According to the governments press release, its favored model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press protection 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 money would come from either higher expenses or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage personal financial investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business design. These agreements are developed to conquer the expense gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to go into the sector. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. Sharelines from this story. Now that its method 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 business design:. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released together with the main technique.