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

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and takes a look at some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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.

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could utilize up to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an essential element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from 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.).

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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.

Hydrogen development for the next decade is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” set out in the method.

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

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

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

The document 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 aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on gas.

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

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high rates and low efficiency..

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen costs launched along with the main technique, 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% sustainable.).

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

It has actually likewise released 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.

The new technique mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful 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 insufficient green hydrogen available..

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit 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 omitted.

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

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

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

The federal government has released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle style aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

This opposition capped when a recent study resulted in headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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


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

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

Contrast of price quotes across different technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on “hydrogen-ready” boilers by 2026.

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

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [Therefore] we need to utilize 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.

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

Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly.

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

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

The beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had “left open” the door for uses that “dont add the most value for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest cars. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which numerous scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which include most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Government analysis, included in the method, recommends prospective hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. However, the strategy also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heatpump.. Require 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". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- provided leading priority. The federal government is more optimistic about making 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 listed below indicates. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings method may also supply some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to go into the sector. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "really small" for specific families. Now that its technique 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 model:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to motivate private financial investment and an income system to offer funding for the company model. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this business design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released together with the main method. These agreements are designed to conquer the expense gap in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press protection 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. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 admits, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story. According to the federal governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms.