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

Experts have warned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

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

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy supplies more information 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 technique and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

However, as with many of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

In its brand-new method, 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 nation to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “conscious of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a crucial component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

The file contains an exploration of how the UK will broaden production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Its adaptability indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently struggles with high costs and low efficiency..

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 blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on gas.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

Today we have actually published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start an entire industry release the marketplace to cut expenses ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k tasks #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

It has actually also launched 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 methodology for determining these emissions.

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it counted on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

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

Supporting a range of tasks will provide the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

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 market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.


The brand-new technique mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

The federal government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle design components” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be checked through the markets reaction 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, 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 states:.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect 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 excluded.

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 primary factor in market development”.

Contrast of rate quotes across different technology types at central fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the main method, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The document does not do that and instead says it will supply “additional detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

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

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

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

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Commitments made in the new technique consist of:. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers consider as more effective and cost-efficient technology. Government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Protection of the report and federal government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021. Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to choose its top priorities thoroughly. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products lorries, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short term. However, the strategy also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heatpump.. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise provide some clearness. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its method has actually been released, the federal government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press protection 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 cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for the company design. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable premise to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for individual homes. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage 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 strategy confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the main technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector.