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

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

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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and takes a look at a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Its adaptability implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

The document consists of an expedition 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “mindful of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

As the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an important component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

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 capability in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically zero.

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

In its new technique, 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 country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, but covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

Nevertheless, just like many of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … 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 “think about carbon intensity as the main aspect in market development”.

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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 says:.

Contrast of price estimates throughout various innovation types at central fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget 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.

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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released together with the primary method, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The new method largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving 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 offered..

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government must “be alive to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The federal government is more optimistic about making 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 suggests.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Dedications made in the new strategy include:. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. " As the technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical cars, which lots of researchers consider as more effective and cost-effective innovation. The strategy also includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing as much as 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 federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may likewise offer some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. Sharelines from this story. 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 cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are developed to overcome the expense gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company design to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to offer financing for business design. The brand-new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released together with the primary strategy. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy consumption 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 method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for individual families. Now that its technique has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:.