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

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

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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Specialists 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 capacity expands.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at essentially zero.

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

Nevertheless, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

In its new technique, the UK federal 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 “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from 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 extensive explainer.).

As the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it could then expand substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

In some applications, hydrogen will complete with electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the best ways of decarbonisation.

Its flexibility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a vital element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of considerable buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

The brand-new technique mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for computing these emissions.

The technique mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a series of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

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

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

The document does not do that and rather says it will supply “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.

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

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly.

In the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment 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. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. The technique also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. " As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top priority. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be crucial for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The federal government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible 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. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Commitments made in the new strategy include:. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "left open" the door for uses that "dont include the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. It contains strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest automobiles. This is constant with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many scientists deem more cost-efficient and effective technology. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the market would be "very little" for specific households. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage 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 will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the main method. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either greater expenses or public funds. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are designed to get rid of the expense space between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to encourage personal investment and a profits system to supply financing for business model. Now that its technique has actually been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.