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 utilize up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

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

Professionals have actually warned 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 capability expands.

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights crucial points from the 121-page strategy and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

However, 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 cars require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, specifying that the government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically zero.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

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

However, similar to many of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this new market.

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

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

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “aware of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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 strategy, and states it wants the country to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then expand significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

The plan also required 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 reduce dependence on natural gas.

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025″ laid out in the strategy.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a crucial element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity known as the worldwide warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are complete.”.

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured and kept..

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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

Contrast of price quotes throughout different innovation types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will supply “more information on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses launched together with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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


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

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 intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, informs 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:.

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

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

This opposition capped when a current research study led to headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise design aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends on a series of assumptions, which can just be checked through the markets response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

The CCC has formerly defined “ideal emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

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

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

However, 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 really high methane leakage and a short-term step of worldwide warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Nevertheless, the technique also consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump..

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation 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.

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to choose its priorities carefully.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually “left open” the door for usages that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which many scientists deem more cost-effective and effective technology.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. " As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Require proof 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. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top priority. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " Stronger signals of intent might guide private and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be limited to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. These agreements are created to get rid of the expense gap between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. According to the governments news release, its favored model is "constructed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced together with the main strategy. Now that its method has actually been released, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage private financial investment and an earnings system to offer financing for the service model. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake 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 strategy admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private families. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business aiming to get in the sector.