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

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Experts have cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Nevertheless, similar to most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in lots of sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

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

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans pertain to fruition it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high prices and low performance..

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its newest suggestions, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

The government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & without any sensible guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.


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

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

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

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”.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released together with the main method, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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 facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

Supporting a variety 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.

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies should establish both blue and green choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the impact 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.

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

The new technique mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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 strength as the main factor in market advancement”.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top concern. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The strategy likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which many researchers deem more efficient and affordable technology. 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 benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Protection of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the governments plan would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need 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. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "really small" for individual families. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage private investment and an earnings mechanism to offer financing for the company model. Much of the resulting press coverage 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 cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. The new hydrogen method validates that this company design will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary strategy. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake 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 technique admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are developed to overcome the expense gap between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to enter the sector.