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

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

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

Company decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage 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.

Specialists have alerted 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.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

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

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

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

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Nevertheless, just like many of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The strategy notes that, in many cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

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


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

The new method mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

The file does not do that and rather states it will offer “further information on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

Comparison of cost quotes across various innovation types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CCC has actually formerly stated that the federal government needs to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

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 element in market development”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs launched together with the main method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Reacting to the report, energy scientists 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 thoroughly. Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. " As the strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we require to utilize it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The technique likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Protection of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would provide sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. 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 below indicates. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided top priority. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible 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. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has actually not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many scientists deem more economical and efficient technology. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing 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 supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently 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 upcoming heat and buildings method might also supply some clarity. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the 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 final decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen service design to motivate private financial investment and an income system to provide funding for the company design. Sharelines from this story. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink location) 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 technique admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released along with the primary technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for specific households. These contracts are created to overcome the cost space in between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap.