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

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

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

Professionals have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in brief supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

Company choices around the level of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

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

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently experiences high costs and low effectiveness..

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

As with many of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling industry.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left behind. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to permit time for facilities and automobile stock changes.

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

In its brand-new technique, the UK federal government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

The strategy likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on natural gas.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the federal governments strategies concern fruition it could then broaden substantially– using up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “conscious of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the full range is based on the whole range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an important element in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

The CCC has previously specified “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

Comparison of price estimates across different technology types at main fuel rates commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in some cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, capture and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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 argument”. He states:.

The brand-new strategy largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the federal government has actually committed to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

The figure listed below from the consultation, 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.

This opposition capped when a current research study resulted in headlines mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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 different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies must establish both green and blue choices, “instead of simply whichever is least-cost”.

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

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

However, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– mentioning that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the government ought to “be alive 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”.

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and real, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the technique, with a pledge to “settle design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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 element in market advancement”.

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

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states allowing some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

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


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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched together with the main technique, shows the expected decreasing 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% eco-friendly.).

The previous is basically zero-carbon, however the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leakages from gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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

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 environment or economy”. She includes:.

Dedications made in the brand-new strategy consist of:.

This is 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 existing power sector.

The new technique is clear that industry will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “likely” be necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy products lorries, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical vehicles, which numerous researchers consider as more efficient and cost-effective technology. Coverage of the report and federal government advertising products stressed that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its priorities carefully. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "locations less fit to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of market" and offering versatility to the power system. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. So, my lovelies, I simply 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 tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. However, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading priority. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly set out how to choose upon which sectors will gain from the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". The federal government is more positive about using 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 suggests. Nevertheless, the strategy also consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electrical heat pumps.. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. " As the technique confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be essentially impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, a minimum of in the short term. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 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. Present energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those should be the focus.". Much will hinge on the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method may likewise offer some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? The new hydrogen method validates that this business design will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to provide financing for the organization design. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to supply long-term security to the market would be "really little" for specific households. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy usage 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 market "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies might play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". These contracts are created to get rid of the expense space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to enter the sector.