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 might meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy offers 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 article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

On the other hand, company choices around the degree of hydrogen use 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.

Experts have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

As with most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Its versatility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high costs and low performance..

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

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

Today we have actually published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole industry let loose the marketplace to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the technique.

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

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on gas.

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a similar range to other studies.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an essential component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

This opposition capped when a current research study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

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

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must establish both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released together with the primary strategy, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

” If we desire to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The plan keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Supporting a variety of jobs will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

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

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The brand-new method mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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 intensity as the main aspect in market advancement”.


It has actually 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 approach for determining these emissions.

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

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

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

However, the strategy also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heat pumps..

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

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

In the real report, the government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Dedications made in the new technique include:. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading priority. The new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be crucial for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The federal government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to select its top priorities carefully. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial 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. Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Nevertheless, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists deem more efficient and economical technology. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique might also supply some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage 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 cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. These agreements are created to get rid of the expense gap in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate private investment and an earnings system to provide financing for business model. Now that its strategy has been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really small" for individual families. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched together with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.