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

Specialists have cautioned that, with hydrogen in short supply in the coming years, the UK should prioritise it in “hard-to-electrify” sectors such as heavy industry as capability expands.

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

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

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

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights bottom lines from the 121-page strategy and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen method?

As with many of the federal governments net-zero technique documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been delayed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

The strategy does not increase this target, although it notes that the federal government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry included a list of demands, mentioning that the federal government should “broaden beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the forthcoming hydrogen technique”. This call has actually been echoed by some industry groups.

The file consists of an expedition 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 wanting to import hydrogen from abroad.

Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the 6th carbon budget effect assessment and the complete range is based upon the whole variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

Its adaptability suggests it can be utilized to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, but it presently experiences high prices and low effectiveness..

However, as the chart listed below programs, if the federal governments plans concern fulfillment it might then expand significantly– using up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– most of which is currently made from gas– as a way for fossil fuel business to keep the status quo. (For all the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

Hydrogen is widely seen as an important component in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant buzz, with lots of countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

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

Hydrogen development for the next decade is expected to begin gradually, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and automobile stock modifications.

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen advancements in the UK, but market figures have actually warned that the UK risks being left behind. Other European nations have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

It has actually likewise launched 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 method for calculating these emissions.

The previous is basically zero-carbon, but 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 record 100% of emissions..

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

This opposition came to a head when a current study caused headlines specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

There was substantial pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– consisting of CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term step of global warming potential that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.


Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a statement that the federal government need to “be alive to the danger of gas market lobbying causing it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various amounts of heat in the environment, a quantity referred to as … Read More.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the worldwide warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

The new method mainly avoids using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has dedicated to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both varieties.

Supporting a variety of jobs will offer the UK a “competitive benefit”, according to the federal government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

The government has released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen requirements to accompany the method, with a pledge to “settle style components” of such requirements by early 2022.

The strategy specifies that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this strategy and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

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

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

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

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by eco-friendly electrical energy, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing gas, with the resulting emissions captured 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 intensity as the main aspect in market advancement”.

The figure listed 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 techniques above the red line, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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:.

The document does not do that and instead says it will supply “further detail on our production strategy and twin track approach by early 2022”.

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

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses released alongside the primary strategy, shows the anticipated declining cost 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% sustainable.).

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

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

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a beneficial tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will reduce emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not adequate green hydrogen offered..

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

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

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

” As the technique admits, there wont be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments concentrate on electrical cars and trucks, which lots of researchers deem more affordable and effective technology.

However, the method also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps..

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with current applications– such as the chemicals industry– given top priority.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has actually not plainly laid out how to choose which sectors will gain from the preliminary organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.”.

Illustrative hydrogen demand in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage ought to be restricted to “areas less fit to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– suggests there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK houses.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Dedications made in the new strategy consist of:.

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

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually “exposed” the door for uses that “dont include the most value for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a “lead choice” for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transport– particularly heavy products vehicles, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

In the real report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, because not all use cases are similarly most likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Responding to the report, energy scientists indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and urged the federal government to choose its concerns thoroughly. 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 current power sector. Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Protection of the report and government marketing products stressed that the governments plan would provide adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m houses each year. Call for proof on "hydrogen-ready" commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Require evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year". Phase 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and many professionals have actually argued that these hold true where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Existing energy need in the UK for area and warm 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 recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen demand [in market] that are already offered ... those should be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final choice in late 2023. Much will depend upon the development of feasibility research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures method may likewise offer some clearness. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion 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 strategy admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Nevertheless, 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 market would be "very little" for specific households. The 10-point strategy consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to encourage private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to offer funding for the organization model. Now that its technique has actually been published, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization design:. According to the federal governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut costs of brand-new offshore wind farms. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the role that brand-new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production essential to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future demand and high threats for business aiming to get in the sector. The new hydrogen technique confirms that this business design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched alongside the main strategy. These contracts are designed to overcome the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the strategy for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. Sharelines from this story.