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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “important” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

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

Specialists have actually cautioned 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.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its possible use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but industry figures have warned that the UK risks being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital part in strategies to attain net-zero emissions and has been the subject of substantial hype, with numerous nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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 lower dependence on natural gas.

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock modifications.

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

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it could then expand considerably– taking up between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Its flexibility means it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently suffers from high rates and low efficiency..

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, stating that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan impact assessment and the full range is based upon the entire range from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

This opposition came to a head when a recent study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary strategy, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen made using grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on really high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive 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.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount understood as … Read More.

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that roll out making use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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 advancement”.

The CCC has formerly specified that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different routes to 2035” in its hydrogen method.


Supporting a variety of jobs will provide the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus specifically on green hydrogen.

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

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

The new strategy mainly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has devoted to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

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

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 debate”. He says:.

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen made using electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity called the worldwide warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leakages from natural gas infrastructure and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, at least in the short term.

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 use cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are equally most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

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

” As the method confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to use it where there are few 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.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be limited to “areas less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

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

However, 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 reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen usage, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. However, the starting point for the range-- 0TWh-- suggests there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy presently utilized to heat UK houses. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Coverage of the report and federal government advertising products emphasised that the governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m houses each year. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which many scientists consider as more cost-efficient and efficient innovation. The method also includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. " Stronger signals of intent might guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The federal government has not clearly set out how to choose which sectors will benefit from the initial planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". The federal government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below shows. Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to choose its top priorities carefully. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "left open" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests potential hydrogen need of as much as 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. So 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and structures method may likewise offer some clarity. Finally, in order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government says it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this service design will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the primary strategy. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen business model to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to supply funding for business model. These agreements are designed to overcome the expense space in between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this gap. Much of the resulting press coverage 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 higher expenses or public funds. Now that its technique has been published, the federal government states it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the service design:. According to the governments news release, its favored design is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. " This will provide us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [sixth carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for business aiming to enter the sector. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "extremely little" for private households. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last 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 industry "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Sharelines from this story.