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

On the other hand, 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 postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

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

Hydrogen will be “critical” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could use up to a 3rd of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the federal government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of needs, stating that the government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective usage in lots of sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

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

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

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

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

Its versatility suggests it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently struggles with high costs and low performance..

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the complete variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

As the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden significantly– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

Prior to the brand-new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at essentially zero.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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

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

The government has released an assessment on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “finalise style aspects” of such standards by early 2022.

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

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

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

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 intensity as the primary consider market development”.

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to federal government analysis included in the method. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs launched together with the primary technique, reveals the expected decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).


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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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 method for computing these emissions.

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 green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He states:.

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals 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.

For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will lower emissions quicker in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen readily available..

Nevertheless, there was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it depended on extremely high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming capacity that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from sustaining automobiles to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use need to be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and offering versatility to the power system.

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This follows the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers deem more effective and affordable technology.

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with existing applications– such as the chemicals market– given leading priority.

Federal government analysis, included in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide private and public investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not plainly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

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

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 current power sector.

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

The beginning point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

The strategy also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electric heat pumps..

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy goods vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. " As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. [] we need to use it where there are few options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas," Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programs at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The government is more optimistic about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Responding to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and advised the government to choose its concerns thoroughly. Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually "exposed" the door for uses that "do not include the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. 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 feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and structures technique might likewise offer some clarity. In order to create 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 final choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? These contracts are designed to overcome the cost space in between the favored innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either greater bills or public funds. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to encourage private financial investment and a profits system to supply financing for the service design. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of final energy intake 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 industry "within a year"." As the strategy confesses, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this service model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched alongside the main strategy. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "very little" for individual households. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new technologies could play in achieving the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". Now that its strategy has been published, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high dangers for business aiming to go into the sector. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new overseas wind farms.