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

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

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

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

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

Firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish 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 car stock modifications.

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

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, stating that the federal government must “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 imagined by the technique is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest recommendations, but covers a comparable range to other studies.

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

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

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

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

Its flexibility means it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– making up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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 strength as the primary factor in market development”.

The plan notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs released along with the main method, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The new technique mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

The former is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the impact 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 omitted.

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 dispute”. He states:.

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


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

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

It has also launched 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.

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will offer “further detail on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022″.

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government ought to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

The government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise style aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

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

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

Comparison of rate quotes throughout various technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term step of international warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

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

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

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

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends prospective hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had “exposed” the door for uses that “do not add the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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 competition in 2021.

” As the strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

Protection of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly.

The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests.

In the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Nevertheless, the method likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete 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-- provided leading concern. However, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers deem more effective and economical innovation. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Commitments made in the brand-new method consist of:. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the 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, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently available ... those should be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique may likewise supply some clearness. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. These agreements are created to overcome the cost 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 meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and an income system to supply financing for business model. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "built on a comparable property to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "really small" for individual families. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this company design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced together with the main method. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:.