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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

Its adaptability implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently struggles with high rates and low performance..

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in many sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

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

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

Nevertheless, just like many of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “aware of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

The strategy also required 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 lower dependence on gas.

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it might then broaden significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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


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

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

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

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 strength as the main consider market advancement”.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs released alongside the main technique, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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 dispute”. He states:.

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the government must “be alive 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”.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

This opposition capped when a recent study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

The figure below from the consultation, based on 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

The file does not do that and instead says it will provide “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but 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 brand-new method mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … Read More.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, 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 just co2.

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

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

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars and trucks. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more affordable and effective innovation. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. " As the technique admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. 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. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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 new method is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". So, my lovelies, I simply 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 benefit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. The method likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its concerns thoroughly. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Coverage of the report and government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. 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. Present energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. 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 aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy may also offer some clearness. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those should be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. These contracts are designed to get rid of the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for specific homes. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to enter the sector. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this business design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the main strategy. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage personal investment and an income system to supply funding for business model. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.".