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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

The UKs 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 virtually non-existent.

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

Specialists have actually warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Its flexibility means it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero strategy, and states it wants the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

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

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, however covers a similar variety to other research studies.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

Brief (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & with no sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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:.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The government has released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design components” of such standards by early 2022.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released together with the primary strategy, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The brand-new strategy largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

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

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

It has also 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 approach for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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 main consider market advancement”.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a range of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..


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

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

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

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

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which many scientists see as more economical and effective technology.

Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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 clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

” As the method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– offered top concern.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

Nevertheless, the method likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps..

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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.

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and private investments into those areas which add most value. The government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". 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. Current energy need 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 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might also provide some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? 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 intending to enter the sector. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the primary technique. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization model to motivate private financial investment and an income system to supply financing for business design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost space between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Now that its strategy has been released, the government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. Sharelines from this story. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for individual homes.