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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Experts 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.

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy offers more information on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is practically non-existent.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is anticipated to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

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

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high costs and low performance..

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

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an essential part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at essentially zero.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of needs, mentioning that the federal government must “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The strategy notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025″..

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit 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 excluded.

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs released along with the primary technique, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

Supporting a range of projects will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

In the example chosen for the assessment, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are listed below around 85% were left out..

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “additional detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government need to “be alive to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.


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

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

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

Coverage of the report and government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of researchers see as more affordable and efficient technology.

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

” As the method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to utilize it where there are few alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

The method also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps..

Dedications made in the new technique include:.

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes.

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”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to choose its priorities carefully.

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

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

The brand-new method 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 very important for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It contains 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 pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. 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 space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise supply some clearness. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are developed to get rid of the cost gap between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released together with the primary strategy. 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 go into the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for specific homes. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate personal financial investment and an income mechanism to offer financing for the company model. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 method confesses, there will not 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. Now that its strategy has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "built on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds.