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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might satisfy up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

On the other hand, company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

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 capability expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

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

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent advice, however covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “mindful of a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, stating that the government should “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Nevertheless, similar to many of the federal governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually absolutely no.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

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

Supporting a range of jobs will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

Short (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & without any practical guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

Contrast of cost quotes throughout different technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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

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

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

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

In the example selected for the assessment, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold 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 left out.

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


The CCC has alerted that policies should develop both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released together with the primary technique, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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 “think about carbon intensity as the primary factor in market development”.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

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

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for usages that “do not include the most value for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

Require proof 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”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals industry– given leading priority.

” As the strategy confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

The federal 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 usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:.

The brand-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 necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous scientists deem more efficient and cost-effective innovation.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential 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 strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps..

This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

In the real report, the government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might also offer some clearness. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen method verifies that this company design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched together with the primary method. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and a profits system to offer funding for the business model. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial amounts 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. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for specific families. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms.