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

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

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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

Prior to the brand-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 capability stands at practically zero.

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

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 prices and low efficiency..

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

The file consists of an expedition 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 aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then expand considerably– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually warned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, stating that the government should “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses released together with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).


Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government should “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

This opposition capped when a current research study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

Supporting a range of projects will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

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

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

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

The brand-new technique mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

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

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 main consider market advancement”.

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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. " As the method confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which numerous scientists view as more efficient and economical innovation. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Commitments made in the new method include:. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are similarly likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top priority. The method also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public 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 scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to select its top priorities thoroughly. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices 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 competition in 2021. Federal government analysis, included in the method, recommends potential 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. Coverage of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique may also provide some clarity. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, 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. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are developed to get rid of the cost space between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the main method. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private financial investment and a revenue system to offer funding for the organization design.