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

On the other hand, company decisions around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of needs, specifying that the federal government needs to “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new market.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, but covers a comparable range to other research studies.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on gas.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high costs and low efficiency..

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

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

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

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it might then expand significantly– comprising in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the technique.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a vital element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headings stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

The CCC has alerted that policies should develop both blue and green options, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

” If we desire to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The federal government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “settle design elements” 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)– said that, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

Contrast of price quotes throughout various innovation types at central fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will provide “more information on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs launched together with the primary strategy, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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


The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The CCC has previously mentioned that the federal government ought to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount known as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars, which numerous scientists consider as more cost-efficient and efficient technology.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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. The new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion 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 present power sector. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading priority. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. However, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows. Protection of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the federal governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". 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%. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method might also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "built on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "very little" for specific homes. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:. These agreements are created to conquer the cost gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and a profits mechanism to offer financing for business model. The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this organization model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched along with the primary method. Sharelines from this story. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last 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 market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 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.