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

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

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

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, specifying that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the method is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its most recent recommendations, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

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

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 actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

However, just like many of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “knowledgeable about a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

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

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high costs and low efficiency..

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

It has actually also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for determining these emissions.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government need to “be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of international warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The CCC has previously 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.

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

In the example chosen for the consultation, gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were excluded..

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs released together with the primary strategy, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in 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 government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle design components” of such standards 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the main consider market development”.

The plan notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The CCC has warned that policies must establish both green and blue choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on 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 left out.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

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

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

The federal government is more positive 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 listed below suggests.

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger vehicles. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of researchers deem more efficient and affordable technology.

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products cars, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Commitments made in the new strategy include:.

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. However, the technique likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heatpump.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor 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 climate or economy". She includes:. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. " As the method confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean 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. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Protection of the report and government advertising products stressed that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures technique may also provide some clearness. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already available ... those should be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private investment and an income mechanism to provide funding for business model. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last 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 technique admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private homes. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched along with the primary method. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are designed to overcome the expense space in between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector.