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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

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

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently struggles with high rates and low performance..

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually 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 cars need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

The document includes an expedition 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.

As with many of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, mentioning that the government should “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

In its new technique, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

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

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

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

The plan 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 decrease reliance on natural gas.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government need to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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


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

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

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

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

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

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

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

The new technique mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect 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 omitted.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

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

It has likewise released 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 determining these emissions.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the government to choose its concerns thoroughly.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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.

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy consist of:.

This remains 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 3rd of the size of the present power sector.

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

” As the strategy admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] 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 declaration.

So, my lovelies, I simply 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The strategy likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

The government is more positive 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 indicates.

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

In the actual report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The new technique 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-- particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for uses that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided leading priority. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which numerous researchers see as more efficient and affordable technology. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method might likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater bills or public funds. According to the governments news release, its preferred design is "developed on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal investment and a profits system to supply funding for business model. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "really little" for specific households. These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this service model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the primary strategy. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to go into the sector.