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

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

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

Professionals 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 market as capacity expands.

Meanwhile, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to assessment for the time being.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential component in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with many nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the technique.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at virtually no.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock changes.

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

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

The strategy likewise required 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 reduce dependence on natural gas.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, specifying that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

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

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

There were also over 100 references 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 methods released earlier this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government need to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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 primary aspect in market development”.

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– mentioning that it relied on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of international warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and then roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released along with the main technique, shows the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

The brand-new technique mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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


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

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

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

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a threshold 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.

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions caught and stored..

This opposition capped when a recent study caused headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

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

” As the method admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy products cars, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to “areas less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

Federal government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

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

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which numerous scientists consider as more cost-effective and efficient innovation. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead mainly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Commitments made in the new method consist of:. My lovelies, I simply 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, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 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 present power sector. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to pick its priorities thoroughly. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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. Nevertheless, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. Protection of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. The government is more optimistic about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below indicates. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term. However, the technique also consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to complete with electric heat pumps.. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading priority. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 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 research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method may also offer some clarity. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company model to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue system to supply funding for business design. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private homes. Now that its strategy has been published, the federal government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are developed to overcome the cost space in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the main strategy. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon spending 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the governments press release, its preferred design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of new offshore wind farms.