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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page strategy and analyzes a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could satisfy up to a 3rd of the countrys energy requirements by 2050, according to the government.

Company choices around the extent of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

However, similar to the majority of the federal governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and lorry stock modifications.

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

In its new strategy, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero strategy, and states it wants the nation to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high costs and low performance..

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

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

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on natural gas.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs released together with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must develop both green and blue choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

The new strategy mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

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

It has actually also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for computing these emissions.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government ought to “live to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The strategy notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025″..

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that 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.”.


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

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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 main consider market advancement”.

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

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing materials stressed that the governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

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

Nevertheless, the strategy also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its top priorities carefully.

Dedications made in the brand-new method include:.

Require proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment 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 CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs.

” As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to utilize 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.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which lots of scientists see as more affordable and effective innovation.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

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

The new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided top priority.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs 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:. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for space and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method may also supply some clearness. Lastly, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Sharelines from this story. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main method. Hydrogen demand (pink area) 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 will not be considerable quantities 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. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business intending to get in the sector. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are developed to get rid of the expense gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "extremely little" for private families. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage personal investment and a revenue system to offer funding for the service 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater expenses or public funds.