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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page method and takes a look at a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Company decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Hydrogen will be “vital” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Hydrogen is commonly seen as a crucial part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at essentially absolutely no.

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the strategy.

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently 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 in-depth explainer.).

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

The plan also 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 reduce dependence on gas.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve 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 automobile stock changes.

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

However, just like the majority of the governments net-zero technique files up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the sixth carbon budget impact evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, stating that the government must “broaden beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has been echoed by some industry groups.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden considerably– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Its versatility implies it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high prices and low performance..

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Glossary.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen readily available..

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 blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He says:.

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

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends upon a variety of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including 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 effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The CCC has previously specified that the federal government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

Supporting a variety 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.

It has actually also 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 approach for calculating these emissions.

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based on this analysis, shows 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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

The new strategy largely prevents using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

Environmental groups and many scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government ought to “be alive to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to devote too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Contrast of cost quotes across different technology types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.
2021.

The CCC has cautioned that policies should develop both green and blue choices, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

Close.
CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity known as … Read More.

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “think about carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses released alongside the main strategy, reveals the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10 pic.twitter.com/I8HpqQjlKS— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:.

” As the technique admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to utilize it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests prospective 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.

Nevertheless, the starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK homes.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for uses that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which many researchers consider as more efficient and economical technology. The method likewise includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the government to select its priorities thoroughly. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the present power sector. " Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The government has not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be figured out through pilots and trials.". The new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Require proof 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 competition in 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading priority. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method may likewise supply some clarity. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those must be the focus.". In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to offer long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private households. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy admits, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal 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 function that brand-new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are created to conquer the cost space between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this business model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been launched together with the primary strategy. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to offer financing for business model. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:.

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