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

On the other hand, firm choices around the degree of hydrogen usage 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.

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon budget impact assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, specifying that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fruition it might then broaden substantially– using up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

Its versatility indicates it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

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

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

There were also over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched previously this year.

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

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

However, similar to the majority of the governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

Hydrogen is extensively seen as a crucial part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

The file includes 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 been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

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

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

What variety 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 debate”. He says:.

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 primary factor in market advancement”.

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be evaluated through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on really high methane leakage and a short-term measure of worldwide warming capacity that emphasised the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the global warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released together with the primary method, reveals the expected declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

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 method for determining these emissions.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but 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 catch 100% of emissions..

The figure below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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


CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

The government has launched an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

Quick (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & without any sensible guidelines. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

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

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to establish both green and blue alternatives, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

The strategy keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made utilizing 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 CCC has formerly specified that the federal government needs to “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various routes to 2035” in its hydrogen technique.

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

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

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

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has actually not clearly laid out how to decide upon which sectors will gain from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.". Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of experts have argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the brief term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given leading concern. My lovelies, I just 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 benefit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:. The government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this use by 2035, as the chart below suggests. " As the strategy admits, there will not be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to utilize it where there are few options 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 new method is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Coverage of the report and government advertising products emphasised that the governments strategy would supply adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to select its priorities carefully. The method likewise includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly 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. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers view as more cost-effective and efficient technology. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for 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. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to "areas less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the federal 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 federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might likewise supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already available ... those need to be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? The new hydrogen method confirms that this service model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced along with the primary method. These contracts are developed to conquer the expense gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable premise to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for the service design. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of last 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 method admits, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies aiming to get in the sector.