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

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

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

The UKs new, long-awaited hydrogen method provides more detail on how the government will support the advancement of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is essentially non-existent.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page technique and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Professionals 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.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

The strategy likewise 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.

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

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

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently experiences high prices and low performance..

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

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

Critics also characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically zero.

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

Nevertheless, as with many of the governments net-zero technique documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an important component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of considerable hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

However, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans pertain to fruition it could then expand considerably– using up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but market figures have actually cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

In its new method, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a crucial part of its net-zero plan, and says it desires the country to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government need to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will offer “additional information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and saved..

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

In the example chosen for the consultation, natural gas routes where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were excluded..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as … Read More.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 factor in market advancement”.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen costs launched alongside the primary technique, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide personal and public investments into those areas which include most worth. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “do not include the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the government to choose its priorities carefully. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and providing flexibility to the power system. Dedications made in the new method include:. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical vehicles, which many researchers consider as more cost-effective and effective innovation. The method also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps.. Protection of the report and federal government promotional products stressed that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. The government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. " As the method admits, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [For that reason] we need 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 statement. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading concern. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, recommends potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures method might also offer some clearness. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to enter the sector. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released together with the primary strategy. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely little" for individual households. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to provide financing for the service design. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are designed to conquer the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space.