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

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

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

Firm decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Specialists have warned 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 capacity expands.

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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently experiences high rates and low efficiency..

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

As the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it could then expand substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The technique 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”.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an essential component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest guidance, but covers a similar range to other research studies.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

The CCC has cautioned that policies should develop both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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:.

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

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

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

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

The figure below from the consultation, 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 techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

The document does not do that and instead states it will offer “further detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

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

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

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 factor in market development”.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs launched together with the main strategy, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

It has likewise released 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 approach for computing these emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity known as the international warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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


The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

Quick (hopefully) 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?

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– given top priority.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public investments into those areas which include most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Coverage of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had “left open” the door for usages that “do not add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

However, the technique likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to compete with electrical heatpump..

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Dedications made in the new strategy include:. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which many scientists view as more economical and effective technology. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its top priorities thoroughly. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. The government is more positive about using 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 shows. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. So, 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 use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the method confesses, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique may also provide some clarity. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? According to the governments news release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary strategy. These agreements are developed to conquer the cost gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really little" for individual families. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater bills or public funds. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its method has actually been published, the government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake 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 confesses, there will not be significant 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 uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to get in the sector. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate personal investment and an income mechanism to provide financing for the organization design.