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

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen method provides more detail on how the federal government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

Professionals have 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 capacity expands.

Firm decisions around the degree 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 assessment for the time being.

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its newest recommendations, however covers a comparable variety to other studies.

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The file consists of an expedition of how the UK will expand 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 plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on natural gas.

Today we have actually published the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire market unleash the marketplace to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

In its new method, the UK 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 “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

However, similar to the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a vital element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high rates and low performance..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle style components” of such standards by early 2022.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called … Read More.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The plan keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The CCC has formerly mentioned 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 former is essentially zero-carbon, but 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 capture 100% of emissions..

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

There was substantial 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 procedure of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.


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

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

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 “consider carbon strength as the main element in market development”.

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

This opposition capped when a current research study led to headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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”.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount called the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any reasonable regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Supporting a variety of projects will offer the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

The new method mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “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 simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt 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.

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we require to use it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists see as more effective and economical innovation.

The federal government is more optimistic about using 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 suggests.

The method likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

Government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

In the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for space 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. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might also supply some clearness. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Sharelines from this story. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are developed to conquer the cost gap in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this business model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced alongside the main strategy. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for specific households. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and a profits system to supply funding for the organization design. Now that its strategy has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. 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 market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to get in the sector.