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

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, firm 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 consultation for the time being.

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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for attaining the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and car stock modifications.

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

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

Hydrogen growth for the next years is anticipated to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Its versatility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it presently suffers from high rates and low efficiency..

Nevertheless, as with most of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market consisted of a list of demands, stating that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then expand considerably– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in numerous sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

The plan likewise called for 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 minimize reliance on natural gas.

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, 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 approaches above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

Environmental groups and many researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity understood as … Read More.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

This opposition capped when a recent study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

The document does not do that and rather states it will supply “more information on our production method and twin track approach by early 2022”.

The brand-new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends upon a range of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the primary element in market development”.


At the heart of lots of discussions 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), stated in a declaration that the federal government need to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

Supporting a range of projects will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary technique, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and personal financial investments into those locations which add most value. The government has not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

The CCC does not see substantial use of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

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

The brand-new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “most likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy goods cars, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

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

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

The technique likewise includes 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..

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the government to choose its concerns carefully.

Protection of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electrical cars, which numerous scientists see as more effective and economical innovation.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be restricted to “areas less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

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

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally likely to be successful. 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 current power sector. Commitments made in the brand-new technique include:. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to 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". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. " As the technique confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. However, the beginning point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the climate or economy". She adds:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Finally, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings technique might likewise provide some clearness. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen market? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. Now that its technique has been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. The brand-new hydrogen technique validates that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released alongside the main technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector. Sharelines from this story. These contracts are designed to get rid of the expense space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to encourage personal investment and an earnings system to provide financing for the business model. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption 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 industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be considerable quantities 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. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, 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 expenses or public funds.

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