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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Experts have actually alerted 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 capability expands.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

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

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 says it desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

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

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

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

Its adaptability means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

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

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden considerably– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

The CCC has actually warned that policies must establish both green and blue alternatives, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using 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 different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 main element in market development”.

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

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

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


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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released alongside the main method, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to pick its concerns carefully.

However, the method likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump..

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 benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

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 reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those areas which include most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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 committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. " As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Dedications made in the new method consist of:. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top priority. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars and trucks. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which numerous researchers view as more effective and cost-effective innovation. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those need to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy may likewise offer some clarity. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company design to encourage private financial investment and an income mechanism to provide financing for the company design. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher costs or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched together with the primary technique. Hydrogen need (pink area) 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 will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for individual households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to enter the sector. These agreements are developed to get rid of the cost gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Sharelines from this story. Now that its technique has been published, the government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:.