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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon method have actually been postponed or put out to consultation for the time being.

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen strategy?

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

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering market included a list of demands, specifying that the government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen strategy”. This call has actually been echoed by some market groups.

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its potential usage in many sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies launched earlier this year.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan effect evaluation and the full variety is based on the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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

The document consists of 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.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is presently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at virtually no.

Its flexibility suggests it can be utilized to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it currently struggles with high prices and low performance..

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

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fruition it might then broaden substantially– using up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of infrastructure and abilities in the UK.

Nevertheless, just like the majority of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been delayed by months, leading to uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower reliance on gas.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential part in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the topic of substantial buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

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 states it desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, but industry figures have actually warned that the UK threats being left. Other European countries have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

It has actually also launched 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 approach for determining these emissions.

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 expenses of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and after that roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the atmosphere, an amount understood as … Read More.

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

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 says:.

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen costs released along with the main technique, shows the expected declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

Environmental groups and lots of researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

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

The CCC has warned that policies must establish both blue and green choices, “rather than simply whichever is least-cost”.

Short (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers estimations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually severely & & with no reasonable policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Nevertheless, there was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– explaining that it depended on really high methane leakage and a short-term step of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions caught 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 “consider carbon strength as the primary factor in market advancement”.

The brand-new strategy largely avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it states the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both ranges.

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

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

The document does not do that and rather states it will provide “additional detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

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


For its part, the CCC has advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for attaining net-zero. It says enabling some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

Jess Ralston, an expert 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 heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

This opposition capped when a current study resulted in headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.

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

The starting point for the range– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently used to heat UK houses.

Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen method.

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

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 existing power sector.

” As the method confesses, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anyone brand-new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put usage cases for tidy hydrogen into some sort of merit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments concentrate on electric automobiles, which numerous researchers consider as more efficient and economical innovation.

The method likewise consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps..

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to pick its priorities thoroughly.

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

Nevertheless, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. Government analysis, included in the technique, recommends potential hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Protection of the report and federal government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would supply sufficient hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. It contains prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Call for evidence on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require 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 competition in 2021. The new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be necessary for decarbonising transport-- particularly heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had "exposed" the door for usages that "do not include the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. " Stronger signals of intent could steer private and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to "areas less suited to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market" and supplying flexibility to the power system. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the usage of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with current applications-- such as the chemicals market-- given top concern. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. Much will hinge on the progress of feasibility studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings strategy may likewise supply some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". How does the federal government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy usage 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 market "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to establish a hydrogen company design to motivate personal investment and a revenue system to provide financing for the service model. These contracts are designed to conquer the expense space between the preferred innovation and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. " This will offer us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will meet a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.". The new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been released together with the primary technique. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business aiming to go into the sector. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the industry would be "extremely small" for specific households. 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 industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the money would come from either higher costs or public funds. Now that its method has been released, the government states it will collect proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "built on a comparable premise to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of brand-new overseas wind farms.