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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Specialists have actually 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 capacity expands.

Company decisions around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure 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 method offers more detail on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is virtually non-existent.

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a 3rd of the nations energy requirements by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, but covers a similar variety to other research studies.

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies concern fulfillment it could then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, mentioning that the government needs to “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

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

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

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

In its new method, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

However, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to begin gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 dispute”. He says:.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, 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 just carbon dioxide.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government ought to “live to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for computing these emissions.

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

The file does not do that and rather says it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022″.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit 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 omitted.

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


Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no 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 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 “think about carbon intensity as the main factor in market advancement”.

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

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses released along with the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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

The CCC has previously stated that the federal government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heat pumps..

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

” As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had “exposed” the door for uses that “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be limited to “locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

The federal government is more positive about making use of 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 promotional products stressed that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

The starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes.

Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

In the real report, the government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous researchers view as more effective and economical innovation. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy may likewise supply some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage personal financial investment and an income mechanism to offer funding for business model. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary technique. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for private households. Now that its technique has been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher bills or public funds. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost gap in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last 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 will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.