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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page technique and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Company decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “critical” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a third of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Professionals have warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, however covers a similar range to other studies.

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on gas.

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

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

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

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

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

The document consists of an exploration 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 seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The strategy states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government need to “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market development”.

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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Short (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & with no sensible regulations. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

It has also 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.

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 extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses launched together with the main technique, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with 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 co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

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 dispute”. He states:.

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

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..


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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:.

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

In the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists see as more affordable and effective innovation. The technique also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. 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 merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the brief term. " Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Coverage of the report and government advertising products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to use 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. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top concern. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor 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 climate or economy". She includes:. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the government to select its priorities carefully. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests potential hydrogen need 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 beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. 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 3rd of the size of the present power sector. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the 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. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique may likewise offer some clearness. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to enter the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific households. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this business design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the main technique. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. These agreements 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 space. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and a profits system to offer financing for business model.