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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Experts have cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the full variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

As with many of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its most current advice, however covers a similar variety to other research studies.

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

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

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

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the technique.

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

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

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically no.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

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

The strategy 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 decrease reliance on gas.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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 capture 100% of emissions..

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The brand-new method largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

It has actually likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for computing these emissions.

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

The document does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, 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 federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

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 main aspect in market advancement”.

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

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary strategy, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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


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 various sectors of the economy?

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

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for usages that “do not add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-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 use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many researchers consider as more effective and economical technology.

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

In the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competition in 2021. Protection of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " As the technique admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to select its priorities thoroughly. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged 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 recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps.. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method might likewise supply some clearness. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual households. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for the business model. Sharelines from this story. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the main technique. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are developed to get rid of the expense space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to enter the sector. Now that its strategy has been published, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:.