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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon budget plan effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

As with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

In its new technique, 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.

Its adaptability suggests it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently struggles with high prices and low performance..

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Comparison of cost quotes across different innovation types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.
2021.

Glossary.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

Short (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no sensible policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible. https://t.co/Jx0FdDfdx5— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the primary aspect in market development”.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released together with the primary technique, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The CCC has cautioned that policies should establish both green and blue options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

It has also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

In the example chosen for the assessment, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were omitted..

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

The technique also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps..

Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:.

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

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to “areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

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 pick its priorities carefully.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– provided leading priority.

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which lots of researchers deem more economical and efficient technology.

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

It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

The new method is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products cars, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests possible 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.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are similarly likely to be successful. 1/10 pic.twitter.com/I8HpqQjlKS— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. This remains 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 current power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy might likewise provide some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private homes. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the primary strategy. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage personal investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business model. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last 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 strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to go into the sector. Now that its method has been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:.

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