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

Professionals have 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.

Company decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

Its versatility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

In its brand-new technique, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and car stock changes.

However, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new market.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most current guidance, but covers a similar variety to other research studies.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold 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 previous is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not record 100% of emissions..

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount understood as … Read More.

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

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

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 methodology for determining these emissions.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released along with the main method, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.


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

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

This opposition came to a head when a current research study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

In May, S&P Global Platts reported that Rita Wadey– hydrogen economy deputy director at the Department for Business, Energy & & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market development”.

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

The federal government is more optimistic about making use 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 below suggests.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

In the actual report, the government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 benefit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to choose its concerns carefully. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading concern. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which lots of researchers view as more economical and effective technology. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment 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 competitors in 2021. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " As the technique admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The method also includes the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy may likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to enter the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage 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 come from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for business design. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really small" for specific families. These contracts are created to conquer the expense space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The new hydrogen method verifies that this business model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the primary technique. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.