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 government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

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

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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and examines a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

The strategy also 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 reduce reliance on natural gas.

As with many of the governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed 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, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently struggles with high prices and low performance..

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to begin gradually, with a federal government goal 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, stating that the government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

The brand-new method mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs released along with the main technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study resulted in headings stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government must “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

Supporting a variety of projects will provide 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, 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.

Contrast of price quotes across different technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “additional detail on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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 strength as the primary factor in market advancement”.

It has also launched 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 methodology for computing these emissions.

The CCC has formerly mentioned that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035″ in its hydrogen method.

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

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

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

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

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

Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:.

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

In the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more positive about the use of 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 below shows. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. 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. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many scientists see as more efficient and cost-effective technology. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The technique likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. " As the technique admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be crucial for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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 competitors in 2021. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy demand in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may also supply some clarity. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate personal investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for the business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final 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 strategy confesses, there will not be significant 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. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher bills or public funds. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". The new hydrogen method validates that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced together with the primary strategy. Now that its method has actually been released, the federal government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "very small" for specific families. These contracts are created to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap.