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

Firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use 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.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page technique and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Professionals have actually warned that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

However, similar to many of the governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather greater than set out by the CCC in its most recent suggestions, however covers a comparable range to other studies.

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

Its versatility implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high rates and low performance..

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– making 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.

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The brand-new technique largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

It has likewise 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 approach for calculating these emissions.

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

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


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

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not sufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

This opposition capped when a recent study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount 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)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will supply “further information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government must “live to the danger of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The figure below from the assessment, 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

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

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The CCC has cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue alternatives, “rather than just whichever is least-cost”.

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs launched along with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

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

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

The technique also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and supplying versatility to the power system.

It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those areas which add most value. The government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which many researchers consider as more cost-efficient and efficient innovation.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion 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 existing power sector.

Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

” As the technique admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– provided leading concern.

Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its concerns thoroughly.

Coverage of the report and government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method 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:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings technique might likewise offer some clearness. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private investment and an income system to supply funding for business model. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a comparable property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, 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 bills or public funds. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies might play in attaining the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private families. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this business model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary method. These agreements are created to overcome the cost gap between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap.