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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Professionals have actually 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 industry as capacity expands.

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 essentially non-existent.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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 “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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 lower dependence on gas.

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

Its flexibility implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently experiences high rates and low efficiency..

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon budget effect evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has actually warned that policies need to develop both blue and green choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on 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 omitted.

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 debate”. He says:.

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen available..

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses released together with the primary method, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

Contrast of rate estimates throughout various technology types at central fuel rates 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 a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount called the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

” If we want to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.


Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government should “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

The former is basically zero-carbon, however the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

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

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

The new strategy largely prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

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

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

The government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the method, with a promise to “settle style components” of such requirements by early 2022.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This is constant with the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous scientists see as more cost-effective and efficient technology.

The federal government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

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 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need 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.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

The new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

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

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

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

Commitments made in the brand-new technique consist of:.

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the government to choose its concerns carefully.

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

My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody 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 likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps.. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Protection of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might likewise provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". These contracts are designed to overcome the cost gap between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage private investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual families. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake 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 strategy confesses, there wont be considerable quantities 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. Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this business model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the primary strategy.