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

Specialists have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Company choices around the level 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 assessment for the time being.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on gas.

The strategy 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”.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– comprising in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest suggestions, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out 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 deliberations are complete.”.

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

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government must “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The new technique mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to federal government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The document does refrain from doing that and rather says it will offer “further information on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen available..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

The CCC has actually formerly mentioned that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

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 argument”. He says:.


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

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

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

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

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

Reacting 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.

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

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

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which lots of scientists deem more cost-efficient and efficient innovation.

The strategy likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps..

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

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

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices 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.

” As the strategy confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

However, 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 relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top priority. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may also supply some clearness. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. The new hydrogen method verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary strategy. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. These contracts are created to conquer the cost space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion 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 confesses, there will not be significant 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 strategy has actually been released, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for specific homes. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen company design to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue system to provide financing for the business design. Sharelines from this story.