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

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

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

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

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

On the other hand, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

In its new technique, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero strategy, and states it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve 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 vehicle stock modifications.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently struggles with high rates and low effectiveness..

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

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar variety to other studies.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

It has likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for computing these emissions.

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

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -made it possible for 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..

The document does not do that and rather says it will provide “more detail on our production strategy and twin track method 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

The CCC has 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”.

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

Contrast of cost estimates throughout different innovation types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no sensible guidelines. And after that cherry-picked an environment 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 a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … Read More.

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


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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government need to “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses launched alongside the main technique, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The CCC has warned that policies should establish both green and blue choices, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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 excluded.

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

This opposition capped when a current study led to headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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:.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to “locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

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

This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes.

Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. 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. The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Protection of the report and government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which many scientists see as more efficient and economical innovation. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to select its concerns carefully. Commitments made in the new technique consist of:. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Federal government analysis, included in the method, recommends possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy might also provide some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "very little" for private homes. " 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 technologies could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to go into the sector. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this company model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the main method. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for the organization model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. These agreements are created to conquer the expense space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. 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 proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story.