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

Firm choices around the degree 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.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might consume to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Experts have warned 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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

The file consists of 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 actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high prices and low performance..

In its brand-new method, 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 country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “additional information on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

It has also 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 approach for computing these emissions.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released along with the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.


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

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

The brand-new method mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

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

The CCC has previously defined “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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 strength as the primary factor in market advancement”.

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

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the effect 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 excluded.

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

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

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

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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 dispute”. He states:.

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin 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 until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

Coverage of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “do not add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly.

The federal government is more positive about using 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.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 competitors in 2021.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which many researchers consider as more cost-efficient and efficient technology.

” As the method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

However, the method also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

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

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 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

However, the starting 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 currently used to heat UK homes.

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise supply some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press protection 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 money would come from either greater bills or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released alongside the primary strategy. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for the service design. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar facility to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. " 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 role that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "really little" for specific homes. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. Sharelines from this story. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion 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 method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space.