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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and could utilize up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

On the other hand, company choices around the level of hydrogen usage 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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies come to fruition it might then expand substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget plan effect assessment and the complete range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to begin slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

Its flexibility suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently experiences high rates and low performance..

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a crucial part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

Prior to the new strategy, 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. Currently, this capacity stands at essentially absolutely no.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock modifications.

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

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

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

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

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

The new technique mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government must “live to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

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

The file does refrain from doing that and rather states it will supply “additional detail on our production technique and twin track approach by early 2022”.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary technique, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, reveals the impact 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 excluded.

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 strength as the main consider market advancement”.

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

Quick (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & without any practical policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The technique specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..


It has actually likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for computing these emissions.

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

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on extremely high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

Dedications made in the new method consist of:.

The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below shows.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– given top concern.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

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

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the current power sector.

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to choose its concerns thoroughly.

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

The new strategy is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “most likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which lots of scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. The technique likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most value for the climate or economy". She includes:. " As the strategy confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long 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 programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those areas which add most value. The government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". 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 usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, recommends potential 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. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK homes. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining cars to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for space and hot 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. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures strategy might likewise provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its method has actually been released, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service model:. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to get in the sector. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to establish a hydrogen service model to encourage private financial investment and an income mechanism to offer financing for business model. These agreements are developed to conquer the cost gap between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater expenses or public funds. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the main technique. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake 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 method confesses, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really little" for private homes. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "built on a similar premise to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms.