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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation 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.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a similar range to other research studies.

As the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish 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.

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

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

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

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

Its flexibility suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high rates and low effectiveness..

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary strategy, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect 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 technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..


As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a promise to “finalise design components” of such requirements by early 2022.

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 approach for calculating these emissions.

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

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– stated that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main factor in market development”.

The brand-new method largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must develop both blue and green alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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 debate”. He states:.

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

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

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

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

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 procedure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

However, the strategy also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

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 clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items cars, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to select its top priorities carefully.

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and private investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which numerous scientists see as more efficient and cost-effective innovation.

” As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and offering flexibility to the power system.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

However, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Protection of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise provide some clearness. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The new hydrogen method verifies that this company design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the main technique. " This will give 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 innovations might play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 strategy admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to get in the sector. Now that its method has been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for individual households. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for business model.