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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

Company decisions around the extent 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 consultation for the time being.

Specialists have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in numerous sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

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

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

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

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, stating that the government should “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Its adaptability means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to begin slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

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

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

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary technique, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The CCC has cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

This opposition capped when a current study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can only be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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 debate”. He states:.


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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis included in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows 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.

In the example selected for the consultation, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were left out..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

Quick (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no sensible regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

The file does not do that and rather says it will supply “more information on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided leading priority.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “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 anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” As the method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments plan would provide sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation. Government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Commitments made in the brand-new technique consist of:. " Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to select its priorities thoroughly. Nevertheless, the method also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method may likewise provide some clearness. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for individual homes. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for business design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink area) 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched alongside the main strategy. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost space between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.".