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

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

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

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

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

Specialists have cautioned 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 capacity expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most recent guidance, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant 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 on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

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

Its flexibility implies 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 performance..

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

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of needs, mentioning that the government must “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The file does not do that and instead says it will supply “further detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The technique specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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:.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated 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 “think about carbon strength as the main factor in market advancement”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government must “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

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

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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


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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released together with the primary method, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which numerous scientists view as more cost-efficient and efficient innovation. Government analysis, included in the method, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 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. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Protection of the report and government marketing 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 used to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " As the method confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading priority. The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. The method also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for space 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. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might likewise supply some clarity. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. The new hydrogen method validates that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the primary strategy. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater expenses or public funds. These contracts are designed to conquer the expense gap in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private investment and a profits mechanism to supply funding for the company model. Sharelines from this story. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms.