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

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

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

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

Professionals have warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

Its adaptability means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently experiences high prices and low performance..

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its most current recommendations, however covers a similar variety to other studies.

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments plans pertain to fulfillment it could then expand significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “aware of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

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

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 states it desires the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

As with many of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

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

The strategy likewise called for 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 natural gas.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has formerly stated that the federal government needs to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released alongside the primary strategy, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government should “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The document does refrain from doing that and rather says it will provide “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

The new strategy largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

” 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 considerations are complete.”.

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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 intensity as the main consider market advancement”.

This opposition capped when a recent study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.


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

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

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 argument”. He states:.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes.

The new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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 competitors in 2021.

Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heat pumps..

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “left open” the door for uses that “dont include the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided top concern.

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

The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates.

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. Coverage of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars, which many researchers deem more efficient and cost-efficient technology. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to use it where there are couple of options 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. 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 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests potential hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Commitments made in the new method consist of:. 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. Current energy need in the UK for area 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. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method might also provide some clarity. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake 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 admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to go into the sector. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to supply financing for business design. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to conquer the cost space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. The new hydrogen method verifies that this organization model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released together with the primary strategy.