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

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 short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Professionals 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.

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a third of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high rates and low performance..

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a vital element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan impact assessment and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically absolutely no.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

The plan also called for 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 reduce dependence on natural gas.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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:.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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

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 technique. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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


The previous is basically 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 catch 100% of emissions..

Quick (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & with no sensible policies. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

It has likewise 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 approach for computing these emissions.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released together with the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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 methods above the red line, consisting of 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”.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The document does not do that and instead says it will provide “more information on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 development”.

The CCC has alerted that policies must establish both blue and green alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the current power sector.

In the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its top priorities carefully. Dedications made in the new technique consist of:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top concern. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. " As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] we require to utilize it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Nevertheless, the method also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which lots of researchers see as more efficient and affordable innovation. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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. Protection of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might likewise offer some clearness. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? 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 method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply funding for the business design. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "built 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 fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private households. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this business model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the primary technique. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. These agreements are designed to conquer the expense space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space.