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

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

Company choices around the degree of hydrogen use 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.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and takes a look at some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans concern fruition it could then broaden substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital part in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

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 plan, and states it desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies 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.

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on natural gas.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually 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 enable time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high rates and low efficiency..

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

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

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

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

The plan keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

The technique states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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 strength as the main consider market advancement”.

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched along with the main strategy, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Supporting a range of tasks will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

Brief (ideally) showing on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.


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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the impact 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 left out.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming potential that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government must “be alive to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to dedicate too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

The CCC has previously specified “suitable emissions reductions” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 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 available, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The brand-new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

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

Commitments made in the new method include:.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

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

The new method is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The starting point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous scientists consider as more effective and affordable technology.

Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products stressed that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to choose its priorities carefully.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public financial investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

In the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require 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. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading concern. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. Nevertheless, the method also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heatpump.. 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 use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had "exposed" the door for uses that "dont add the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. 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%. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy might also offer some clearness. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those need to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? The new hydrogen technique verifies that this business model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the primary technique. These contracts are created to conquer the expense space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to get in the sector. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company design to encourage private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for business model. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the role that new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 technique confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for private households. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a comparable facility to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Now that its technique has actually been released, the government states it will collect evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. Sharelines from this story.