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

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

Experts have actually warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Today we have actually released the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire market release the market to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of private capital support 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, but covers a similar range to other studies.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

As with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

In its new strategy, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and says it desires the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Its flexibility indicates it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high costs and low efficiency..

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

The plan 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 decrease reliance on gas.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at essentially absolutely no.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “additional information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

The brand-new strategy mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

Brief (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no practical guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

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

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


The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals 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.

It has actually likewise released 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 approach for determining 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 consider market advancement”.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies must establish both green and blue options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon 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 deployment of hydrogen”..

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

” 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 until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

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

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the federal governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Commitments made in the new technique include:. 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 use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The strategy also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. The federal government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. " As the technique confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices 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 competition in 2021. Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its priorities carefully. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which lots of researchers deem more cost-effective and efficient technology. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise supply some clearness. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced alongside the main method. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private households. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and a profits system to offer financing for the company design. These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense gap between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to enter the sector.