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

Firm choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen method 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.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a 3rd of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, however covers a comparable variety to other studies.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, 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 industry groups.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

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

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

The file consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and develop a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

Its adaptability suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero strategy, and says it desires the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Today we have actually published the UKs 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 personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

The plan also 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 reduce dependence on natural gas.

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a potential pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

As with many of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Supporting a range of tasks will offer the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will supply “further detail on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

The new strategy mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

This opposition came to a head when a current study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

Comparison of cost quotes throughout various innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

The strategy notes that, in many cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government must “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

Short (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 cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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 “think about carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

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

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

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to “areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electric vehicles, which lots of researchers consider as more effective and cost-effective innovation.

Commitments made in the brand-new technique consist of:.

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

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals market– given top priority.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

” As the method confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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. So, my lovelies, I just 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, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The method also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. Coverage of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. 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 existing power sector. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to choose its top priorities thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise supply some clearness. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at 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 need [in market] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. These contracts are developed to conquer the expense gap between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to go into the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last 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 technique admits, there will not be considerable quantities 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. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage personal investment and a profits system to provide funding for business design. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for private households. The new hydrogen method validates that this service model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released together with the primary strategy. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms.