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

Specialists have actually alerted 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.

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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” 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.

On the other hand, firm choices around the level of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in lots of sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched previously this year.

The plan likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a crucial element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

In its new strategy, 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 country to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fulfillment it might then broaden considerably– using up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Its versatility means it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high costs and low effectiveness..

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually zero.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan effect assessment and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Nevertheless, as with most of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and lorry stock modifications.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The file does refrain from doing that and instead says it will offer “further detail on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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

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

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 exclusively on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the main strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (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 co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

The method mentions that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular innovations “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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


Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

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

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

The figure listed 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 methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

The brand-new strategy mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

” Stronger signals of intent might guide personal and public financial investments into those areas which add most worth. The government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.”.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

The strategy likewise includes 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..

Responding to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its priorities carefully.

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

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

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

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Dedications made in the new technique consist of:.

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

The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests.

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

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

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers view as more economical and efficient innovation.

Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and supplying versatility to the power system.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Protection of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “left open” the door for usages that “dont add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method may also provide some clarity. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal financial investment and an earnings mechanism to provide funding for the organization design. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for private families. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher costs or public funds. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred design is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " 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 function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Hydrogen need (pink location) 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 method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its method has actually been released, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high risks for business aiming to go into the sector. These contracts are designed to conquer the expense gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been released together with the primary technique.