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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” 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.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans concern fruition it might then broaden considerably– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the development of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and car stock modifications.

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

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from gas– as a method for fossil fuel business to preserve the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

Hydrogen is commonly seen as an essential part in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

Prior to the brand-new technique, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 included plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at virtually absolutely no.

Its adaptability means it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently struggles with high prices and low effectiveness..

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

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

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

It has likewise 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 calculating these emissions.

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and kept..


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

The figure below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas facilities and the reality 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)– said that, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the main consider market development”.

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

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

In the example picked for the consultation, gas paths where CO2 capture rates are below around 85% were omitted..

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government need to “live to the threat of gas market lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

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

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

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

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the blue vs green hydrogen dispute”. He states:.

Contrast of price quotes throughout various technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

Short (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly terribly & & with no sensible policies. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a promise to “finalise design components” of such standards by early 2022.

The brand-new technique largely prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, but it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

The CCC has actually warned that policies should establish both blue and green choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

The file does not do that and rather states it will offer “further detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released alongside the primary technique, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made utilizing grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

Supporting a variety of tasks will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

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

In the real report, the government said that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices 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 competition in 2021. " Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The federal government has not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals market-- offered leading concern. Nevertheless, the strategy also includes the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be limited to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and providing versatility to the power system. Responding to the report, energy scientists pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its top priorities carefully. Government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Coverage of the report and government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would offer adequate hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m houses each year. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric automobiles, which many researchers view as more cost-effective and effective technology. " As the method admits, there wont be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. 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 present power sector. Dedications made in the brand-new technique include:. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. The federal 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 listed below indicates. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the strategy had actually "left open" the door for usages that "dont include the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions 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 warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method might also offer some clarity. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government says it will examine mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? The brand-new hydrogen strategy validates that this service design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched together with the main technique. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production essential to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final 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 strategy confesses, there will not be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These contracts are developed to get rid of the cost gap in between the preferred technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this gap. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal investment and an earnings system to provide financing for the company design. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would originate from either greater costs or public funds. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high risks for companies aiming to go into the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "very little" for specific households. Now that its strategy has been released, the government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the company model:. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story.