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

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

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

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

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

Company choices around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

However, just like many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of needs, stating that the government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it could then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

The document consists of 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 actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, however covers a comparable range to other studies.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

The plan likewise 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 reduce reliance on gas.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan 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 capacity stands at essentially zero.

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

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

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

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 plan, and states it wants the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released alongside the main method, reveals the expected declining expense 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% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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

It has also 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 methodology for determining these emissions.

This opposition came to a head when a current research study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of 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.

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

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

The CCC has actually warned that policies must establish both blue and green alternatives, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows 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.

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 consider market advancement”.

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing 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.).


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

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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 says:.

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

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Dedications made in the brand-new method include:.

The starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

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

It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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

” As the technique admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to use it where there are few alternatives 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.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its concerns carefully.

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers deem more affordable and effective technology. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". However, the technique also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may likewise offer some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific households. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched along with the primary technique. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. These agreements are designed to conquer the cost space between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap.