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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

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

Company choices around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Professionals have alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capacity expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

The plan also 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 lower dependence on natural gas.

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

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

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

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it might then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Its flexibility indicates it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a threshold 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 chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs released along with the main strategy, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).


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

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually badly & & without any reasonable policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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.

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The government has actually released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then 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 complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He states:.

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

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 “think about carbon intensity as the main aspect in market development”.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government should “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

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

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

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

This opposition came to a head when a current research study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen available..

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

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

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be crucial for decarbonising transport– especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Coverage of the report and government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The method also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. The beginning 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 homes. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading priority. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Call for proof 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". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This follows the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists view as more economical and efficient innovation. 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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 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. Present 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. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method may likewise provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? These contracts are created to overcome the cost gap between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private financial investment and an income mechanism to offer funding for the organization design. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The brand-new hydrogen technique 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 consultation, which has been released alongside the main strategy. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 market "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 government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for specific households. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.".