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

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

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

On the other hand, company choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established market.

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it could then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

The strategy does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Its adaptability indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

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

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The method states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

The CCC has actually formerly stated that the government ought to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035″ in its hydrogen method.

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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 intensity as the primary consider market development”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The brand-new method mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both varieties.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses launched together with the main technique, reveals 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% sustainable.).

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

Quick (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & with no practical regulations. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government must “live to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent research study resulted in headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

It has actually likewise 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 method for calculating these 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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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 omitted.

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

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

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

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

The CCC has cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue options, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.


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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The committee stresses that hydrogen use need to be limited to "locations less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and providing flexibility to the power system. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which lots of researchers consider as more efficient and cost-effective innovation. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items cars, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes. Coverage of the report and federal government advertising products emphasised that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. " As the method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [Therefore] we need to use it where there are few options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. The strategy also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests possible hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". 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". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given top concern. This is 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 present power sector. 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 could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to pick its priorities carefully. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. 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%. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending 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 go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might likewise provide some clarity. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Conserve as PDF. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched alongside the main strategy. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "very small" for private households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to go into the sector. The 10-point plan included a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to encourage personal investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for the organization model. These contracts are designed to conquer the expense space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink area) 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 market "within a year"." As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds.

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