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

On the other hand, company decisions around the level of hydrogen use 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.

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Professionals have actually warned 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.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to start gradually, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 envisaged by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest advice, however covers a comparable range to other studies.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

The document consists of an expedition of how the UK will expand production and create a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

In its brand-new strategy, 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 desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Nevertheless, similar to most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

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

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high prices and low efficiency..

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

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

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government ought to “be alive to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of 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 dispute”. He says:.

It has actually also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for determining these emissions.

The government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the technique, with a promise to “finalise style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

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

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will provide “additional information on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

The CCC has alerted that policies need to develop both blue and green choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that 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 considerations are total.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the main technique, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

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 main consider market development”.


Supporting a variety of jobs will provide the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

The new strategy mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has committed to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial 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.

Coverage of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

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

” As the technique admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy include:.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for usages that “dont include the most value for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Nevertheless, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

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 usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically difficult 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.

The new method is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transport– especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to “areas less fit to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

Nevertheless, the strategy likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heatpump..

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

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many researchers deem more effective and affordable innovation. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its top priorities carefully. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. 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 current power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures strategy might also supply some clearness. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "really small" for private homes. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to offer funding for business model. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final 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 anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen method verifies that this business design will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main strategy. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to conquer the cost space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business design:. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "developed on a similar facility to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms.