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

Experts have actually warned 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 capacity expands.

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

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

Prior to the brand-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 capability stands at virtually zero.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a possible pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

Its versatility means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently suffers from high costs and low efficiency..

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

Today we have released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start a whole market unleash the marketplace to cut expenses increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 says:.

The figure below from the consultation, 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

The government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “settle style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CCC has previously defined “suitable emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

Comparison of rate quotes across various innovation types at central fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).


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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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

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

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of researchers consider as more affordable and effective innovation.

The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

However, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term. However, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. " As the strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we require to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. Coverage of the report and government promotional products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The technique likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top concern. Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for area and hot 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. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings technique might likewise offer some clarity. In order to create 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 decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for individual households. " 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 new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate personal investment and an income mechanism to supply funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. 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. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The new hydrogen technique validates that this company model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced alongside the primary technique. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage 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 technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.