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 could utilize up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Specialists have cautioned 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 capability expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high prices and low performance..

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the method.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

However, as with most of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually absolutely no.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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 plan, and says it wants the country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

The file consists of 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 actually been looking to import hydrogen from abroad.

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “knowledgeable about a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a range of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The brand-new strategy mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to develop both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.


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

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

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 aspect in market development”.

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

It has also 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 method for determining these emissions.

Quick (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & with no reasonable policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the federal governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

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

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its priorities carefully.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually “left open” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers view as more effective and cost-effective innovation.

” As the strategy confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:. The strategy likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. The federal government is more positive about the 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. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests possible 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. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. It consists of plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may also offer some clearness. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private households. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen organization model to encourage personal investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. The new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the main technique. 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 market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher bills or public funds. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 technique admits, there wont 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. Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new offshore wind farms.