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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page strategy and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Professionals have cautioned 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.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially no.

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

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

The document consists of an expedition of how the UK will broaden 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.

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it might then expand considerably– making up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an essential component in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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 plan, and says it wants the nation to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Its versatility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high prices and low performance..

Today we have published the UKs first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire market unleash the market to cut costs ramp up domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital support 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety 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 strategy.

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

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 blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the technique is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its latest recommendations, but covers a similar variety to other research studies.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no reasonable regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main factor in market development”.


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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including 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.

It has actually 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 approach for computing these emissions.

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

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

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

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

The strategy mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present the 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.”.

Contrast of rate estimates throughout various innovation types at central fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The CCC has actually alerted that policies should develop both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs launched along with the primary technique, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead says it will provide “more information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Commitments made in the new technique include:. " As the strategy admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to use it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be crucial for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more affordable and effective technology. The federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. " Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". The technique likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. Nevertheless, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. My lovelies, I just 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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Protection of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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. 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 probably be produced. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might likewise supply some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are created to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies intending to get in the sector. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen service design to encourage private investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for business design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for specific homes. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage 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 wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this organization model will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the primary technique.