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

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

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

Company choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen strategy supplies more detail on how the 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 strategy?

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a vital component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, just like most of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched along with the primary method, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows 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 left out.

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the approach for computing these emissions.

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 intensity as the main consider market development”.

The government has actually launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle style aspects” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen offered..

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends on a series of assumptions, which can only be checked through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

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

The former is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the fact that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on very high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The document does not do that and instead states it will provide “more detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He says:.


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

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side considerations are total.”.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to choose its concerns thoroughly.

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

My lovelies, I simply 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 merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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 competitors in 2021.

The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and supplying versatility to the power system.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists view as more efficient and cost-efficient innovation.

Coverage of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends potential hydrogen demand of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

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

The federal government is more optimistic about the 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.

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

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 present power sector. The method also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and personal investments into those areas which include most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". " As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [Therefore] we need to utilize it where there are few 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 brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided leading priority. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Commitments made in the new technique include:. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 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. Current energy need 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. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may also supply some clearness. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Now that its method has been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater bills or public funds. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for individual families. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to go into the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "built on a comparable property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen strategy verifies that this company model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main technique. These contracts are designed to conquer the cost gap in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The 10-point plan included a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal financial investment and an earnings system to supply funding for the business model. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give 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 essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". Sharelines from this story.

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