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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and might fulfill up to a third of the countrys energy needs by 2050, according to the government.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page technique and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

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

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

Its adaptability implies it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, stating that the government should “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

The level of hydrogen use in 2050 envisaged by the strategy is somewhat higher than set out by the CCC in its newest advice, but covers a comparable variety to other studies.

As with many of the governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to begin gradually, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– making up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock changes.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in lots of sectors. It also features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel companies to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a vital part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

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

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

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

The brand-new technique largely avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect 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.


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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government should “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

The strategy states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs launched together with the primary strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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 consider market development”.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out making use 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.”.

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “most likely a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

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

Brief (hopefully) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no practical regulations. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

This opposition capped when a recent research study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will provide “further detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided leading priority.

Commitments made in the new technique include:.

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 present power sector.

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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Nevertheless, the method likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of scientists consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. It includes strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial 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. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use ought to be limited to "areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and offering versatility to the power system. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Protection of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. " As the method confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to select its top priorities thoroughly. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. The federal government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term. The starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy demand in the UK for area and hot 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 hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might also supply some clearness. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its technique has actually been released, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this business model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the primary technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private families. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final 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 method admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen service model to motivate personal financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for the organization design. Sharelines from this story.