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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Professionals 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 market as capability expands.

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

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen technique supplies more information on how the government will support the development 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 might satisfy up to a 3rd of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a vital part in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand considerably– comprising in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

As with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “mindful of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar variety to other research studies.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high prices and low performance..

The strategy likewise called for 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 minimize dependence on gas.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The CCC has actually alerted that policies need to develop both green and blue alternatives, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

Comparison of price estimates across different technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

The brand-new technique mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government should “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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 method for computing these emissions.

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

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

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the main technique, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

Brief (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & with no reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals 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 excluded.

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “more information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..


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 “consider carbon intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

” If we desire 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 total.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount understood as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

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

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

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “left open” the door for usages that “do not add the most value for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

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

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

In the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial 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. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its concerns thoroughly. 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 use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading concern. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of researchers deem more economical and effective technology. Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. My lovelies, I simply 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, because not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The method likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal 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. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for individual households. These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final 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 industry "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 method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply financing for business model. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this company 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 assessment, which has actually been released along with the main strategy.