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

Experts have cautioned 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.

The UKs 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 practically non-existent.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page technique and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Firm decisions around the level 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 consultation for the time being.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically absolutely no.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Its flexibility indicates it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

However, as with many of the governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Today we have 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 personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

The plan likewise 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 minimize dependence on gas.

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

The file includes an expedition of how the UK will broaden 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.

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies concern fruition it might then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 brand-new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

The CCC has warned that policies should establish both green and blue options, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The document does not do that and instead states it will supply “further detail on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

Short (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any reasonable regulations. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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 techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses released along with the primary technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

Supporting a range of tasks will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

It has also released 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 methodology for calculating these emissions.

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as … Read More.

The former is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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 strength as the primary factor in market advancement”.

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

The technique also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps..

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which lots of scientists view as more cost-efficient and effective innovation.

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

Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and providing flexibility to the power system.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the technique confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize 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 declaration. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its top priorities carefully. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Dedications made in the new method include:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and government promotional products stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". 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. 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 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may likewise provide some clarity. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its strategy has been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The new hydrogen method validates that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced alongside the primary method. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate private investment and an earnings system to supply financing for business model. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for private households. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, 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 costs or public funds. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are developed to overcome the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for companies aiming to go into the sector.