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

Specialists 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 capability expands.

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

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

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

Company choices 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 consultation for the time being.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Nevertheless, as with many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, leading to unpredictability around the future of this recently established industry.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant situations in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in many sectors. It likewise includes in the industrial and transport decarbonisation methods released earlier this year.

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and vehicles require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to start gradually, with a government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the strategy.

Companies such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have warned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

The technique does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the federal government is “knowledgeable about a potential pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

As the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then expand considerably– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

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

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The chart below, from a file outlining hydrogen expenses launched along with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

The new strategy mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it says the government has dedicated to a “twin track” approach that will include the production of both ranges.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity understood as the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.


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

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

The CCC has actually cautioned that policies need to develop both green and blue options, “instead of just whichever is least-cost”.

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 dispute”. He says:.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, however the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the reality that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

Brief (ideally) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really severely & & without any practical regulations. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are complete.”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called … Read More.

However, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– explaining that it counted on very high methane leak and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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

The strategy mentions that the proportion of hydrogen provided by particular technologies “depends upon a range of presumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

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

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 “think about carbon intensity as the primary consider market advancement”.

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen used electrolysers “might become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, capture and storage] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

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

Comparison of rate estimates across various technology types at main fuel costs commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the cheapest low-carbon hydrogen readily 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.).

It has also released an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which examines maximum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

For its part, the CCC has recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, reveals the effect of setting a limit 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 excluded.

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

” Stronger signals of intent might steer public and private investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not plainly set out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

Nevertheless, in the actual report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The government is more optimistic about making use 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 listed below indicates. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. It includes prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading priority. So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are equally likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had "exposed" the door for usages that "dont include the most worth for the climate or economy". She adds:. Protection of the report and federal government marketing materials emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to replace natural gas in around 3m homes each year. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be limited to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly shipping and parts of industry" and supplying flexibility to the power system. The CCC does not see comprehensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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 competitors in 2021. Commitments made in the new method include:. One notable exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the governments focus on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of scientists consider as more efficient and economical innovation. However, the technique likewise consists of the choice of using hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to take on electric heatpump.. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "little" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, recommends possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- suggests there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest price quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. 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 third of the size of the existing power sector. The new technique is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transportation-- particularly heavy goods cars, shipping and air travel-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. Some applications, such as industrial heating, may be essentially difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. " As the technique admits, there will not be substantial 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 programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method states that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy need in the UK for area and hot water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Much will hinge on the development of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might also supply some clarity. Lastly, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? These contracts are designed to conquer the cost gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to enter the sector. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen method, 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. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen business model to motivate private investment and an income system to offer financing for business design. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its method has been released, the government says it will gather proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. " This will give 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 technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and climate change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the industry would be "very small" for specific households. The new hydrogen method confirms that this business model will be settled in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been launched along with the primary method. According to the governments news release, its preferred model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms.