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

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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way 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 method and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

The UKs brand-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 essentially non-existent.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest suggestions, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

As with most of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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 capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically zero.

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on natural gas.

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, specifying that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

The file 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.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

In its new technique, the UK federal 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 “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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

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

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

The new method mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & with no reasonable guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis included in the method. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

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

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

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 debate”. He says:.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released together with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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 strength as the main element in market development”.

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

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

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


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

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and providing flexibility to the power system.

Coverage of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would offer enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This is constant with the governments focus on electric automobiles, which many scientists consider as more effective and affordable technology.

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

” As the method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of alternatives 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.

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 “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

In the real report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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 competition in 2021. The government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose 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.". The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products cars, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. 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 electric heat pumps.. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Commitments made in the new strategy include:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading priority. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. 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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method may also provide some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Now that its technique has been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched together with the primary strategy. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for business aiming to go into the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization design to encourage private financial investment and a profits system to provide funding for the company model. These agreements are developed to conquer the expense space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 method admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.