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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might meet up to a third of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the federal government.

Professionals have actually cautioned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, however covers a similar variety to other research studies.

The strategy also 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 reliance on gas.

The file consists of 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 seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then expand considerably– making up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

In its brand-new method, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as an essential 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– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

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 dispute”. He states:.

This opposition capped when a recent research study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government need to “be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary consider market development”.

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect 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 alerted that policies need to establish both green and blue alternatives, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched together with the main strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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.

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

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

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


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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will offer “further detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start 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 deliberations are total.”.

Short (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials stressed that the governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

However, the beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The 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 usage by 2035, as the chart below shows.

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Dedications made in the new technique include:.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heat pumps..

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical cars, which many researchers deem more cost-efficient and effective technology.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for uses that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– provided leading priority.

However, in the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current 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 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy may likewise provide some clarity. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its technique has actually 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 federal governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are created to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific homes. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal financial investment and an earnings mechanism to provide funding for business model. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the main method.