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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Specialists have actually 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 capacity expands.

Hydrogen will be “critical” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could meet up to a third of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually warned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

As with most of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a crucial part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted 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 enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Its adaptability suggests it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand substantially– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on gas.

The file includes an expedition 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 seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “settle style aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

The strategy states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The strategy notes that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

The document does not do that and instead says it will offer “further information on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

Comparison of cost estimates across various innovation types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity known as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

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 says:.

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

The brand-new technique largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– 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 worldwide warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

It has also launched 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 determining these emissions.

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs released alongside the primary method, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main consider market advancement”.

The figure listed below from the assessment, 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 methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to “locations less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short term.

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

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

However, the technique also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps..

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

The federal government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests.

Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– provided top priority.

Protection of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

Dedications made in the new method consist of:.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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 brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items cars, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. So, 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 usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to select its concerns carefully. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger vehicles. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers deem more effective and affordable innovation. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy may likewise supply some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The new hydrogen method verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the main method. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to encourage private investment and a revenue mechanism to supply financing for the company design. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "built on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Now that its method has actually been published, the government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to enter the sector. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private families. These contracts are created to conquer the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space.