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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

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

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it might then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

As with most of the governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying 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.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and car stock changes.

In its brand-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 says it desires the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Its adaptability means it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The brand-new strategy mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

The file does not do that and instead states it will provide “more detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022″.

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


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

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary factor in market development”.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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 argument”. He says:.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs released along with the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for determining these emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

For its part, the CCC has recommended 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 replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

The figure below from the consultation, 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

In the example picked for the assessment, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were excluded..

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

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

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but 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 capture 100% of emissions..

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be important for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

However, the method likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps..

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

In the real report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short term. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which numerous scientists see as more cost-efficient and effective innovation. Protection of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. 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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective 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. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided leading concern. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of 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 listed below indicates. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Commitments made in the brand-new technique consist of:. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may also supply some clarity. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "very small" for specific households. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The new hydrogen method confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the primary strategy. These contracts are designed to conquer the cost space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, 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. Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for business model.