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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

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 market as capability expands.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

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

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

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

The strategy likewise called for 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 minimize reliance on natural gas.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a crucial element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

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

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high costs and low efficiency..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The new strategy mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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


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

This opposition came to a head when a current study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

It has actually likewise released 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 method for computing these emissions.

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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

Quick (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & without any sensible regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

The CCC has warned that policies must develop both blue and green alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses released together with the primary technique, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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 primary consider market advancement”.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon 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.

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will offer “further detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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 states:.

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

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

However, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Protection of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. The government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical automobiles, which many researchers consider as more effective and cost-efficient innovation. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. 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 present power sector. Dedications made in the new method consist of:. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given top concern. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heatpump.. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need 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. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage private investment and a profits system to provide funding for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for specific households. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake 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 wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to enter the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. These agreements are designed to overcome the expense space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released alongside the main technique.