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

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

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

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

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 been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

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

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages 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 an entire industry let loose the market to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an important component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, specifying that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Its adaptability implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high rates and low efficiency..

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan 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 capability stands at essentially zero.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The new method mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government need to “live to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise design components” of such requirements by early 2022.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called … Read More.

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

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


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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on 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.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

This opposition capped when a recent research study caused headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs launched along with the primary method, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, 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 intensity as the main element in market development”.

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers consider as more affordable and effective technology.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

However, the technique likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heatpump..

In the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly. Call for proof 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. The government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. 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 benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top concern. Commitments made in the brand-new method include:. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might also supply some clarity. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage personal investment and an income system to supply funding for business model. Hydrogen demand (pink area) 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 technique confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are created to conquer the cost gap in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Now that its technique has actually been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "really small" for specific households. The new hydrogen method confirms that this company model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story.