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

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

Company choices around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

The strategy also 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 reliance on gas.

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

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

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

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its most current advice, however covers a comparable range to other research studies.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at practically no.

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an essential part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

Its adaptability suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently struggles with high rates and low efficiency..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Nevertheless, 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 leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

This opposition capped when a current study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount known as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.


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

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

The federal government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals 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 left out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has also 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 computing these emissions.

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

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 primary consider market development”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving 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 insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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 threat of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main method, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

The brand-new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has committed to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

” If we want to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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

However, the strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given top priority. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to use it where there are few alternatives 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. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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 competition in 2021. The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to select its top priorities carefully. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area 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 job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method may likewise offer some clearness. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released together with the primary method. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. These agreements are created to overcome the cost space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to go into the sector. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "developed on a comparable premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for specific families. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage 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 market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage personal investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for the business design. Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:.