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

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a third of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

Company choices 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 consultation for the time being.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Professionals 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 capability expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically zero.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent advice, but covers a similar range to other studies.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as a crucial part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

In the example selected for the consultation, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were left out..

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched together with the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).


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

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

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

It has also released 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 method for determining these emissions.

The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “finalise design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

The document does not do that and instead says it will offer “additional information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary element in market advancement”.

The CCC has cautioned that policies must establish both blue and green alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

Quick (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

The figure below from the assessment, 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 techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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 dispute”. He states:.

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

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

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

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Federal government analysis, included in the method, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Commitments made in the new strategy include:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. Nevertheless, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric cars, which lots of scientists deem more cost-effective and efficient technology. However, the method likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps.. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clearness. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? The new hydrogen technique confirms that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced alongside the primary strategy. Sharelines from this story. Now that its technique has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to enter the sector. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater costs or public funds. These contracts are created to conquer the cost gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private homes. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage 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 method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage private financial investment and an income mechanism to offer financing for the service model.