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

Specialists have alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK must prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

As with most of the federal governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new market.

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK threats being left behind. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, stating that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The former is basically zero-carbon, however 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..

The CCC has alerted that policies need to develop both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

The federal government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “settle design elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

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 intensity as the primary aspect in market development”.

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

Comparison of price estimates across different technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

This opposition capped when a current study caused headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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 dispute”. He says:.

It has actually also 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 methodology for computing these emissions.

The figure below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a series of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government ought to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

The brand-new strategy largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released alongside the main strategy, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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


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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The file does not do that and rather says it will provide “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests prospective 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.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The strategy likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. This remains 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 current power sector. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to select its priorities thoroughly. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Coverage of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading concern. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we require to utilize it where there are couple of 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 statement. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private investments into those areas which add most worth. The federal government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Commitments made in the brand-new technique consist of:. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This follows the governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many researchers deem more cost-effective and efficient innovation. 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 usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "locations less matched to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices 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 competitors in 2021. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The new technique is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those must be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique might likewise offer some clearness. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to go into the sector. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen business design to encourage personal investment and an income system to offer financing for business model. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization model will be settled in 2022, enabling the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the primary technique. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very little" for individual households. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher bills or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake 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 confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government says it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies might play in achieving the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These agreements are developed to overcome the expense gap between the preferred innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap.