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

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

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

Firm choices around the level 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.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

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

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on natural gas.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, stating that the federal government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget effect evaluation and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Its versatility suggests 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 performance..

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

As the chart listed below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock modifications.

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The brand-new strategy mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released alongside the main technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & without any practical guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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


” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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 primary element in market development”.

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

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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

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

The figure below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit 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 left out.

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

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

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

The file does not do that and instead states it will supply “more detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which lots of researchers view as more efficient and affordable technology. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. " As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Nevertheless, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. 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 merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. However, the technique also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump.. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to choose its concerns thoroughly. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered top concern. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method may also offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are designed to conquer the expense space between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this company model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary method. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for specific homes. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and an income mechanism to supply financing for the business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:.