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

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

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

Firm choices around the degree of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

However, as with the majority of the governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have actually cautioned that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments plans pertain to fulfillment it might then broaden considerably– using up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major growth of infrastructure 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 attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and vehicle stock changes.

Prior to the new technique, 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. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually zero.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential element in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Brief (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & with no reasonable 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 brand-new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

The figure listed below from the assessment, 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 omitted.

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

Supporting a variety of projects will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

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 stored..

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses released together with the main technique, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

This opposition came to a head when a recent study resulted in headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

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 debate”. He states:.

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

Many scientists and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

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

” If we desire to show, trial, begin 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 deliberations are complete.”.


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

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

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

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

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

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 “consider carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, however the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private financial investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

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

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof 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.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

” As the method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– provided leading priority.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market" and supplying versatility to the power system. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler vehicles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which many scientists consider as more affordable and efficient innovation. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Dedications made in the brand-new technique consist of:. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the present power sector. Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-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 use cases are similarly likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Nevertheless, the strategy likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heatpump.. Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the "small" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and prompted the federal government to pick its priorities carefully. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Protection of the report and government marketing products stressed that the federal governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 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, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures technique may likewise offer some clarity. 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 objective to make a final decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? 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 market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to go into the sector. These agreements are developed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen business design to motivate private financial investment and an income mechanism to offer funding for the organization design. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. According to the federal governments press release, its favored design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new offshore wind farms. The new hydrogen strategy confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for private families.