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

Meanwhile, firm decisions around the degree of hydrogen use in domestic heating and how to guarantee it is produced in a low-carbon way have been delayed or put out to assessment for the time being.

In this article, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and examines some of the main talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

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

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

In its brand-new strategy, 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 “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capability stands at essentially absolutely no.

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its prospective use in many sectors. It also includes in the industrial and transportation decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

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

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

Companies such as Equinor are continuing with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left. Other European nations have pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen expansion.

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

Its versatility means it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it presently struggles with high costs and low efficiency..

As with many of the federal governments net-zero strategy files so far, the hydrogen plan has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this new industry.

Hydrogen demand (pink area) and percentage of last energy usage in 2050 (%). The main variety is based on illustrative net-zero consistent situations in the 6th carbon budget plan impact assessment and the complete variety is based on the whole variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies come to fulfillment it might then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major expansion of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

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

The file includes an exploration of how the UK will expand production and develop a market for hydrogen based upon domestic supply chains. This contrasts with Germany, which has been seeking to import hydrogen from abroad.

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

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen neighbourhood warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to minimize dependence on natural gas.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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

The CCC has actually previously specified that the government should “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from different paths to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

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

The strategy notes that, sometimes, 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 environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen provided its associated emissions.

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, reveals the effect 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 omitted.

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, rather than “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon strength as the main aspect in market development”.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount called the international warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply carbon dioxide.

It has likewise launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which takes a look at optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the method for calculating these emissions.

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

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

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made using steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most inexpensive low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis consisted of in the method. (For more on the relative costs of different hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electrical power, while blue hydrogen is made utilizing natural gas, with the resulting emissions captured and stored..

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

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

Brief (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Basically, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really badly & & with no practical regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.


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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

The brand-new technique largely avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has committed to a “twin track” technique that will include the production of both ranges.

The method specifies that the proportion of hydrogen provided by specific technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this strategy and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

For its part, the CCC has actually suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It states permitting some blue hydrogen will lower emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen available..

The file does refrain from doing that and rather says it will offer “more detail on our production strategy and twin track technique by early 2022”.

The chart below, from a file detailing hydrogen expenses released along with the primary method, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen with time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electricity, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy scientists pointed to the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and prompted the government to select its priorities carefully.

Commitments made in the new technique consist of:.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have argued that these hold true where it must be prioritised, at least in the brief term.

So, my lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my attempt to put usage cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, since not all use cases are equally likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

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

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is consistent with the governments focus on electric cars and trucks, which many researchers deem more effective and cost-efficient innovation.

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

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

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

The technique likewise includes the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps..

Coverage of the report and government marketing materials stressed that the governments plan would provide enough hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

This remains in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero pathway, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector.

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

However, in the real report, the government stated that it expected “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be relatively low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see comprehensive use of hydrogen beyond these minimal cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually "exposed" the door for usages that "dont add the most worth for the climate or economy". She includes:. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. The brand-new method is clear that market will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen usage, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy products automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid. The committee emphasises that hydrogen use must be restricted to "areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market" and offering flexibility to the power system. Require evidence on "hydrogen-ready" industrial devices by the end of 2021. Call for evidence 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. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from fuelling vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can probably be produced. The government is more positive about the usage 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 listed below suggests. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method mentions that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and buildings method might likewise provide some clearness. Finally, in order to develop 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 aim to make a decision in late 2023. " I would recommend to go with these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are currently readily available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government strategy to support the hydrogen market? Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake 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 method confesses, there will not be substantial 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. Now that its method 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:. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred model is "developed on a similar property to the offshore wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. The brand-new hydrogen method confirms that this business model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first agreements to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been launched alongside the main strategy. " This will provide us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations could play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- told the Times that the expense to provide long-term security to the industry would be "extremely small" for private households. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high risks for business intending to enter the sector. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen business design to motivate personal investment and an earnings mechanism to offer financing for business model. These contracts are created to overcome the cost space between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher bills or public funds.