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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

In some applications, hydrogen will complete with electrification and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the finest ways of decarbonisation.

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Its adaptability implies it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high rates and low effectiveness..

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at practically no.

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

The strategy also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on natural gas.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the topic of significant buzz, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– using up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

However, just like many of the governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

Today we have actually released the UKs very first Hydrogen Strategy! This is our strategy to: kick-start an entire industry let loose the marketplace to cut costs increase domestic production unlock ₤ 4bn of personal capital assistance 9k jobs #BuildBackGreenerhttps:// aHZTr5yYeR– Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) August 17, 2021.

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It also features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called … Read More.

The brand-new method largely avoids using 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.

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen costs launched along with the main technique, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the method, with a pledge to “finalise style components” of such standards by early 2022.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

This opposition came to a head when a current study led to headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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 primary element in market development”.

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

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by particular innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The plan notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will provide “more information on our production method and twin track method by early 2022”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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


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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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 states:.

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

It has actually likewise released 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 method for computing these emissions.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government ought to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to dedicate too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

Environmental groups and numerous scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The CCC has alerted that policies need to establish both blue and green options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will gain from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.”.

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals industry– provided top concern.

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

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

Government analysis, included in the method, recommends possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

However, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to choose its top priorities thoroughly.

The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The technique likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

” As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

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

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This follows the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which many researchers consider as more efficient and affordable innovation.

The committee stresses that hydrogen use ought to be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

This is 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 third of the size of the existing power sector.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. 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 listed below shows. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government anticipates << 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. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might also provide some clarity. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last choice in late 2023. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for specific households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production necessary to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are created to get rid of the cost space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate private financial investment and a profits mechanism to provide funding for the business design. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater costs or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service model will be settled in 2022, allowing the first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched together with the main method. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.