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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in many sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

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

Its flexibility suggests it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen is extensively seen as an important element in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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 need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then broaden significantly– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of needs, mentioning that the government should “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen method”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

In its 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 “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..


” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

The file does not do that and instead states it will supply “additional information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government should “live to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The former is basically zero-carbon, however 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 catch 100% of emissions..

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen expenses released along with the primary strategy, shows the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

It has actually likewise released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines optimum acceptable levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these 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 solely on green hydrogen.

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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 argument”. He says:.

The new strategy mostly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually committed to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit 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 left out.

This opposition came to a head when a current study led to headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies should establish both green and blue options, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

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

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

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

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-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 use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to utilize 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 federal government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests.

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be restricted to “areas less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and providing versatility to the power system.

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

The method likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

Coverage of the report and federal government promotional products emphasised that the governments plan would supply adequate hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

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

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric cars, which many scientists view as more cost-effective and efficient innovation.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had “exposed” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the environment or economy”. She adds:.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mainly left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

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

Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the government to select its top priorities thoroughly.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. The new method is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Dedications made in the new method include:. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique may also supply some clearness. 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. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? These agreements are designed to conquer the cost gap in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Sharelines from this story. Now that its technique has been released, the federal government states it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. The 10-point strategy included a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and an income system to supply funding for business design. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to enter the sector. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar premise to the offshore wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this business design will be settled in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced along with the primary strategy. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030.