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

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

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen technique provides more detail on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could fulfill up to a third of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

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

Company decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “familiar with a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon budget plan effect assessment and the complete range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

However, just like many of the federal governments net-zero method files up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

However, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then expand considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

In its brand-new technique, the UK 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 “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

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

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish 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 car stock modifications.

Its versatility means it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high rates and low efficiency..

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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


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

It has 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 method for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather says it will supply “additional information on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release 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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary aspect in market advancement”.

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

Contrast of cost estimates throughout different technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses launched alongside the primary technique, shows the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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.

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

This opposition came to a head when a current research study caused headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The CCC has previously specified “suitable 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 revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which many researchers consider as more effective and economical technology.

Commitments made in the brand-new method include:.

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the existing power sector.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the brief term. However, the strategy likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electric heatpump.. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone 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 usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments plan would offer enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective 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. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. " As the technique admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading concern. Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to select its priorities carefully. The federal government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. 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 progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might also supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Much of the resulting press coverage 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 expenses or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Now that its method has been published, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage private financial investment and a profits mechanism to supply funding for the business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for individual homes. " This will provide 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 [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The new hydrogen technique validates that this business model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the main strategy. These contracts are developed to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space.