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

Hydrogen will be “important” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Professionals 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 industry as capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, specifying that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the technique.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

Quick (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent study caused headings 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), said in a statement that the federal government ought to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold 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 cautioned that policies need to develop both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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 strength as the primary element in market development”.

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

Commitments made in the new technique include:.

However, the strategy also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electric heat pumps..

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

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

Coverage of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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 competition in 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This is constant with the governments focus on electric automobiles, which lots of scientists view as more cost-efficient and effective technology. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Government analysis, included in the technique, suggests 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. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [Therefore] we require to use it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The federal government is more positive about using 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 listed below shows. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to create 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 objective to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may also provide some clearness. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater bills or public funds. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company design will be finalised 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 main technique. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage 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 admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to enter the sector. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization model to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for the service model. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Sharelines from this story.