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

Meanwhile, company choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent suggestions, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in lots of sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Today we have actually released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole market release the market to cut costs ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fruition it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially no.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

Its versatility implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high rates and low effectiveness..

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary method, reveals the anticipated declining 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% sustainable.).

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

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals the effect 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 excluded.

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

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 consider market development”.

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

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

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

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

Short (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

It has likewise launched 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.

The strategy states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The file does not do that and rather says it will provide “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..


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

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

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices 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.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its top priorities carefully.

It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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

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.

” As the method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

Protection of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers consider as more cost-efficient and effective technology.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

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

Nevertheless, 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 reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. The strategy likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. So, 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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 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. Existing energy need in the UK for area and hot 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. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may likewise offer some clearness. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for individual families. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage personal investment and an income system to provide funding for business design. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced together with the primary method. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are created to conquer the cost space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to get in the sector. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:.