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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Experts 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 industry as capacity expands.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and vehicle stock modifications.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Its versatility means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

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

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

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 expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

The file does not do that and instead states it will supply “more detail on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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

It has actually likewise released 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.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs released along with the main technique, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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


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

The former is essentially zero-carbon, however the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

Short (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the 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 complete.”.

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 intensity as the primary factor in market advancement”.

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

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The CCC has previously stated that the government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

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

Protection of the report and federal government promotional products emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had “exposed” the door for usages that “do not add the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates.

My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The brand-new method is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products cars, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. " Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Commitments made in the new technique consist of:. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which lots of researchers deem more effective and affordable technology. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. The method likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. " As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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 competition in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy might also provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for business design. These contracts are designed to conquer the expense gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released together with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. Now that its technique has been released, the federal government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private households.

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