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

Company decisions around the extent 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.

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Experts have actually 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 market as capability expands.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

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

Its versatility implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

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

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

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the method is somewhat greater than set out by the CCC in its most current suggestions, however covers a similar range to other studies.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in many sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our plan to: kick-start a whole industry unleash 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 file includes an expedition of how the UK will broaden production and produce a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

As with most of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new industry.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then expand considerably– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

Critics likewise 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 advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of international warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a range of assumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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 danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.


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 terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

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

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

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

Short (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no practical guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting a range of jobs will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

The CCC has warned that policies must establish both green and blue options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

The new technique mostly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both varieties.

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

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 “consider carbon strength as the main consider market advancement”.

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This follows the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which lots of researchers view as more efficient and cost-efficient technology.

The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be restricted to “areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “left open” the door for usages that “do not add the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

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

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

The strategy likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps..

The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows.

However, 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)".. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021. " As the method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] we require 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. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion 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. Coverage of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method might also offer some clarity. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. These agreements are developed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Now that its technique has actually been released, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. The new hydrogen method confirms that this service model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced 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 plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and a profits mechanism to offer financing for business design. " This will give us a much 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 attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 method confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business aiming to go into the sector. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely little" for private families.