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

Firm decisions around the extent of hydrogen use 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.

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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and might consume to a third of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually cautioned that the UK threats being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in numerous sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation techniques released earlier this year.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, specifying 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 market groups.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to decrease dependence on gas.

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

Prior to the new technique, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically zero.

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

Nevertheless, as the chart listed below shows, if the federal governments plans concern fulfillment it could then expand substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from natural gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source business to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a vital component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of significant hype, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

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

” If we want to show, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out the use of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

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

The method states that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

The brand-new strategy mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

Quick (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & without any reasonable guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Contrast of price estimates across various technology types at central fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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 cost savings”.

This opposition capped when a recent study led to headlines stating that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the least expensive low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis included in the technique. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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 strength as the primary aspect in market development”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount known as … Read More.

The figure below from the consultation, based on 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be omitted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government must “be alive to the threat of gas industry lobbying causing it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and kept..

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen costs launched alongside the main technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).


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

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the federal governments focus on electric vehicles, which numerous scientists view as more cost-efficient and effective innovation.

Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035.

However, the beginning point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has actually not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.”.

The brand-new method 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 necessary for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The federal government is more positive about making use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that up to 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below indicates.

Reacting to the report, energy scientists indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and advised the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly.

The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs.

” As the strategy admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

Coverage of the report and federal government advertising materials emphasised that the federal governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “do not add the most worth for the climate or economy”. She adds:.

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

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all usage cases are similarly most likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "locations less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Dedications made in the new method consist of:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given leading priority. The technique also includes the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electrical heat pumps.. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial devices by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in market "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will examine mixing as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently available ... those need to be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a job supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might also provide some clarity. How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? These agreements are designed to overcome the cost space between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this organization design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has been introduced alongside the primary technique. 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 higher costs or public funds. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to satisfy our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private financial investment and an earnings system to provide funding for business model. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "really small" for specific families. Hydrogen demand (pink location) 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 technique admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Now that its technique has been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high dangers for companies aiming to enter the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "built on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms.