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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

Specialists 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 market as capacity expands.

On the other hand, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

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

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans pertain to fruition it might then broaden significantly– comprising between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capacity in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually absolutely no.

In its new strategy, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the country 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 very best ways of decarbonisation.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a possible pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

Its versatility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high prices and low efficiency..

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The CCC has actually warned that policies should develop both green and blue alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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


The CCC has previously defined “ideal emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “a minimum of 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

The government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise style elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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

The file does not do that and rather states it will supply “further detail on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

Quick (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & without any sensible regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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 “consider carbon strength as the primary element in market development”.

Supporting a variety of projects will give the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

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 debate”. He says:.

The brand-new strategy largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as … Read More.

In the example chosen for the consultation, natural gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were left out..

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs released together with the main method, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

This opposition came to a head when a recent study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The figure 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 methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

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

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

” As the method confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to use it where there are few 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 declaration.

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

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial 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 competition in 2021.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals industry– given leading priority.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to pick its priorities thoroughly. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. However, the technique likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to contend with electrical heat pumps.. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below indicates. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers deem more efficient and cost-efficient innovation. The new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Coverage of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 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. Present energy demand 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. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method may also provide some clarity. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last choice in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to go into the sector. These agreements are developed to overcome the expense space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling 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 main strategy. " 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 accomplishing the levels of production required to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 strategy admits, there will not be significant amounts 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. Now that its method has been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. The 10-point plan included a pledge to establish a hydrogen company design to encourage private investment and a revenue system to offer funding for business model. Sharelines from this story.