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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to guarantee 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 need a hydrogen method?

As the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans come to fruition it could then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Nevertheless, as with the majority of the federal governments net-zero strategy documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling market.

There were also over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective usage in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, specifying that the federal government must “expand beyond its existing commitments of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital component in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact assessment and the full range is based upon the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have actually alerted that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

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

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

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

Its adaptability means it can be used to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently suffers from high prices and low efficiency..

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 wants the nation to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

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 “consider carbon strength as the main element in market development”.

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

Many researchers and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

Supporting a range of tasks will offer the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

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

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

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

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for determining these emissions.

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the federal government should “live to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study led to headings stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.


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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen readily available, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen costs launched together with the main strategy, shows the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can only be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

The brand-new strategy largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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 debate”. He states:.

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

” If we desire to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side deliberations are total.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity called the global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will offer “further detail on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect 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 omitted.

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

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the federal government to select its concerns thoroughly.

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

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

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler cars. This follows the governments concentrate on electric cars and trucks, which numerous researchers deem more efficient and affordable innovation.

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

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

The new method is clear that market will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will “most likely” be crucial for decarbonising transport– especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

However, in the real report, the government said that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading priority. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence 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 federal government is more optimistic about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. Coverage of the report and federal government marketing products emphasised that the governments strategy would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m homes each year. The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and offering flexibility to the power system. Commitments made in the new method include:. " Stronger signals of intent might steer private and public financial investments into those areas which include most value. The government has actually not clearly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". 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 use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. However, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses. The strategy likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps.. " As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable amounts 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. Government analysis, consisted of in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will hinge on the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings technique may likewise provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to get in the sector. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". The 10-point strategy consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to motivate private investment and an income system to supply funding for the service model. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story. These agreements are created to overcome the cost space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which substantially cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. The brand-new hydrogen technique confirms that this business model will be settled in 2022, making it possible for the very first agreements to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released along with the primary strategy. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "extremely little" for individual households.