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 might meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Experts have actually 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.

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 practically non-existent.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– comprising in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

Its adaptability implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

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

However, 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 vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

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

In some applications, hydrogen will take on electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the very best methods of decarbonisation.

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

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

The file contains an expedition of how the UK will broaden 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 level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

This opposition came to a head when a recent study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

The federal government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle style components” of such standards by early 2022.

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

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He states:.

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

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 technique. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather says it will provide “more detail on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold 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 left out.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount known as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.


The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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

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

Brief (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no sensible regulations. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for calculating these emissions.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main method, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing 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 inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which numerous scientists deem more affordable and efficient innovation.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

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

The government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

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

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

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

The method also includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

In the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021. " As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. So, 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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products cars, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top concern. Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies 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 buildings method may likewise offer some clearness. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher bills or public funds. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage private investment and a revenue mechanism to provide financing for the company design. Now that its method has actually been published, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to get in the sector. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage 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 strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this business model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the main method. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are designed to overcome the expense space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private homes.