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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

On the other hand, firm decisions around the level of hydrogen usage 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.

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

Professionals have warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a 3rd of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

As the chart listed below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it could then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually warned that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its newest suggestions, however covers a similar variety to other research studies.

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, specifying that the federal government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon budget effect evaluation and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

Nevertheless, similar to most 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 new market.

Its flexibility implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The CCC has actually alerted that policies need to establish both green and blue choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government should “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The brand-new technique largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

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”.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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 excluded.

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

In the example picked for the consultation, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

” If we wish to demonstrate, 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.”.

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

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but 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 catch 100% of emissions..


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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

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

The technique also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

Commitments made in the new method include:.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to select its priorities carefully.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– offered leading concern.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually “left open” the door for uses that “do not include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

This is 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 current power sector.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which lots of researchers deem more cost-effective and effective technology.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the method confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [For that reason] we require to use it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the federal governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might also supply some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the primary method. 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 money would come from either higher costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to provide funding for business model. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last 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 technique admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for specific homes. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its technique has actually been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms.