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

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

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

Experts have actually alerted that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK needs to prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capacity expands.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

The file 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 been wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Its flexibility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently suffers from high prices and low effectiveness..

Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central variety is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full variety is based on the whole range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

As with many of the federal governments net-zero method documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this fledgling industry.

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

In its new technique, 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 wants the nation to be a “international leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in lots of sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

The method does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “conscious of a potential pipeline of over 15GW of tasks”.

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

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

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– most of which is presently made from natural gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

As the chart below programs, if the governments plans come to fruition it might then expand substantially– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Business such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have actually alerted that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital component in strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable hype, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

The plan likewise called for a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to minimize reliance on natural gas.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 factor in market development”.

The document does not do that and instead says it will provide “further information on our production technique and twin track method by early 2022”.

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

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

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

Supporting a variety of jobs will give the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has stated it will focus solely on green hydrogen.

The new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says allowing some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen offered..

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

Short (ideally) reflecting 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 regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, a quantity called the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

The plan notes that, in some cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon utilisation, storage and capture] -enabled methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

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

It has likewise released 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 methodology for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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

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


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

This opposition came to a head when a current research study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the environment than coal”.

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

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

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

” If we wish to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or anywhere, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side deliberations are complete.”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He says:.

The CCC has actually 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”.

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

Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term.

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

One noteworthy exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell traveler automobiles. This is consistent with the governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which many researchers view as more economical and effective innovation.

The committee emphasises that hydrogen use should be limited to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and providing versatility to the power system.

Protection of the report and government marketing products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “little” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to select its priorities carefully.

However, in the actual report, the federal government said that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. Nevertheless, the starting point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment 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. Dedications made in the brand-new strategy include:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered top concern. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen strategy. This remains in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the current power sector. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and consultation on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those areas which add most value. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has instead largely left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had "left open" the door for uses that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She adds:. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. Government analysis, included in the technique, suggests possible 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. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. Nevertheless, the method also includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heat pumps.. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also states that it will "most likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The federal government is more optimistic 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 listed below shows. 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. 1 TWh is 0.2%. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently offered ... those ought to be the focus.". Much will depend upon the development of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures technique may likewise supply some clearness. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He describes:. Lastly, in order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at 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 government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for business intending to go into the sector. These agreements are designed to conquer the cost space between the favored innovation and fossil fuels. Hydrogen manufacturers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this organization design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first agreements to be allocated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been introduced along with the primary method. Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply 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 confesses, there will not be substantial quantities 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. According to the federal governments press release, its preferred model is "developed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government says it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:. The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen organization design to motivate personal investment and an earnings system to supply funding for business model. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the industry would be "really small" for private homes. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production needed to meet our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.".