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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and analyzes a few of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Hydrogen will be “important” 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.

On the other hand, company decisions around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

The level of hydrogen usage in 2050 imagined by the strategy is rather higher than set out by the CCC in its newest guidance, but covers a comparable variety to other research studies.

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

As with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to reduce dependence on natural gas.

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “aware of a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden significantly– making up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock changes.

Its flexibility suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high rates and low performance..

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production capability in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically absolutely no.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

Brief (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.

The brand-new strategy largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both varieties.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect 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 left out.

Contrast of cost estimates across different innovation types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

The CCC has formerly specified that the federal government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035″ in its hydrogen technique.

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses released along with the main method, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

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

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

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

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

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

The strategy keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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 main element in market advancement”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The file does not do that and instead states it will provide “more detail on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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

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


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

It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term.

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

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Commitments made in the brand-new strategy consist of:.

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the federal governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which many scientists consider as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation.

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

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

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses.

So, 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 benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities carefully.

The federal government is more optimistic about the 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 indicates.

” As the technique admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [Therefore] we need 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021.

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

” Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

In the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the method also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heat pumps.. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present 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 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings technique might also supply some clearness. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for companies aiming to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. Now that its strategy has been published, the government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue mechanism to provide funding for the business design. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this business design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced alongside the primary strategy. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific households. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption 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 method admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are developed to conquer the cost space between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a comparable property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story.