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

Specialists have cautioned 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 consume to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

As with most of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

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

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

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

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “aware of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

As the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The document does not do that and rather says it will supply “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

The federal government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount called the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

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 strength as the main consider market development”.

” If we desire to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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 says:.

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..


Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

It has actually also released 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.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

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

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

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 cost savings”.

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

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

The brand-new method largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both varieties.

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The strategy notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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 approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses launched together with the main technique, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

Coverage of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals industry– given leading priority.

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

Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

However, the beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many researchers deem more cost-effective and efficient technology. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". The government is more optimistic 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 listed below suggests. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices 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 competition in 2021. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Dedications made in the brand-new method include:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The strategy 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.. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. 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%. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures technique might also offer some clarity. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those should be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its method has been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. These agreements are created to conquer the cost gap in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage 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 industry "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen company design to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings mechanism to offer funding for business design. " This will give 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 could play in attaining the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". 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 aiming to enter the sector. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the main strategy. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual homes. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds.