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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could satisfy up to a 3rd of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

On the other hand, company choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Experts have actually warned 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.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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 strategy, and says it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain 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 lorry stock changes.

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

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most current guidance, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

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

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero method files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

However, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans pertain to fruition it could then broaden substantially– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the worldwide warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

The document does not do that and rather states it will provide “more detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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 main consider market advancement”.

The CCC has alerted that policies need to develop both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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


Contrast of cost quotes across various technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

In the example chosen for the consultation, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

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

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

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 dispute”. He says:.

The government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “finalise design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the main method, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

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

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

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold 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 left out.

The brand-new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

Many scientists and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. " As the technique admits, there will not be substantial amounts 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 electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists see as more cost-efficient and effective innovation. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top priority. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to pick its concerns thoroughly. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. However, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Government analysis, included in the method, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. The method also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand 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 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy may likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher costs or public funds. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. These agreements are designed to conquer the expense space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business design. Now that its strategy has been published, the government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. " This will offer 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 innovations could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". 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 proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not 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. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for individual homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for business intending to get in the sector.