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

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

On the other hand, company decisions around the level 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 consultation for the time being.

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it might then broaden considerably– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential use in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, mentioning that the federal government must “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Hydrogen growth for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

The file contains an expedition of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based on domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has actually been aiming to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

As with most of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget impact assessment and the complete variety is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

It has likewise released 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 approach for calculating these emissions.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government should “live to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched together with the main technique, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.


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

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

However, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on extremely high methane leak and a short-term procedure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over 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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the main aspect in market development”.

Brief (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & without any reasonable policies. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not record 100% of emissions..

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The government has launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a promise to “finalise style aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and instead states it will offer “more information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022″.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

” As the technique confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] 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 programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

The technique also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps..

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the federal governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

Commitments made in the new technique include:.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger cars and trucks. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which many researchers deem more cost-effective and effective innovation.

Require evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and providing versatility to the power system.

Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

The federal government is more optimistic about making use 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 listed below suggests.

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the existing power sector.

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

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is significant unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

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

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items cars, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the environment or economy". She adds:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for space and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to create 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 goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique might likewise offer some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new overseas wind farms. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater expenses or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this company design will be settled in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the primary technique. These contracts are created to overcome the expense gap in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen business model to encourage personal financial investment and an income mechanism to supply financing for the company design. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for business intending to enter the sector. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its technique has actually been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company design:. Sharelines from this story.