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

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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a third of the countrys energy by 2050, according to the government.

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

Professionals 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.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

The plan also called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as an essential component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of considerable hype, with lots of nations prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of needs, stating that the federal government needs to “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

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

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the 6th carbon budget impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

Its flexibility implies it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, but it currently suffers from high costs and low performance..

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the federal governments strategies concern fulfillment it could then expand significantly– taking up in between 20-35% of the nations overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

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

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

There were likewise over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in many sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation techniques launched earlier this year.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock changes.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

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

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 “think about carbon strength as the main factor in market advancement”.

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

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

” If we wish to show, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

The document does refrain from doing that and rather states it will supply “further detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

It has also released 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 methodology for computing these emissions.

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

Many scientists and ecological groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

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

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

The figure listed below from the assessment, based upon this analysis, reveals the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

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

The federal government has actually launched a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “settle style elements” of such requirements by early 2022.

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary technique, reveals the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

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

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


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

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 available..

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

Quick (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 revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the government said that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "little" volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to pick its concerns thoroughly. However, the beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is considerable uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous professionals have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had "left open" the door for uses that "dont add the most worth for the environment or economy". She includes:. The government is more positive about using hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that approximately 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below suggests. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Government analysis, included in the method, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. " Stronger signals of intent could steer personal and public investments into those areas which include most value. The government has not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will take advantage of the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". Coverage of the report and federal government promotional materials emphasised that the governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers see as more cost-efficient and effective technology. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. Commitments made in the brand-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 top concern. " As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put use cases for clean 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. The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage must be limited to "locations less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry" and providing versatility to the power system. The strategy also consists of the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. The CCC does not see extensive use of hydrogen outside of these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. The brand-new strategy is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy goods automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to develop a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Much will depend upon the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may also provide some clearness. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those should be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to fossil fuel options, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there wont 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. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to encourage personal financial investment and a revenue system to provide funding for the company model. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". These agreements are developed to overcome the cost space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen technique validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the very first contracts to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the primary strategy. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to supply long-term security to the industry would be "really little" for private families. Now that its method has actually been published, the federal government says it will gather evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds. Sharelines from this story.