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

Firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation 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 capacity expands.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a 3rd of the nations energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the federal government needs to “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

Its flexibility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the method is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

The file includes 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 actually been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on gas.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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”.

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then broaden significantly– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods launched earlier this year.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the primary aspect in market advancement”.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen readily available, 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 CCC has actually previously specified that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen method.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses released along with the primary technique, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

Quick (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & with no practical policies. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government must “live to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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

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

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.

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


The CCC has actually alerted that policies must develop both blue and green options, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

Supporting a range of projects will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

The document does not do that and rather states it will provide “further detail on our production method and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

The new strategy largely avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as … Read More.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars, which numerous scientists deem more efficient and cost-efficient innovation.

It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

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 “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private financial 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 initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

Coverage of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

” As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the government to select its priorities thoroughly. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competitors in 2021. The technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 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 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique may likewise offer some clearness. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The new hydrogen technique validates that this company design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched together with the primary strategy. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal financial investment and an income mechanism to offer financing for business model. These contracts are created to get rid of the cost gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to go into the sector. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely small" for individual homes. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 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 strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater bills or public funds.