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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “vital” for achieving the UKs net-zero target and might utilize up to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

The technique does not increase this target, although it notes that the government is “knowledgeable about a possible pipeline of over 15GW of jobs”.

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

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

Its flexibility means it can be used to tackle emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently struggles with high rates and low performance..

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budgets and accomplish net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and lorries require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and car stock changes.

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

A current All Party Parliamentary Group report on the function of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, specifying that the federal 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.

Prior to the brand-new technique, 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. Presently, this capability stands at virtually no.

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

There were likewise over 100 referrals to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its potential usage in numerous sectors. It likewise includes in the commercial and transport decarbonisation strategies released earlier this year.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of final energy usage in 2050 (%). The central range is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the 6th carbon spending plan effect assessment and the complete variety is based upon the entire range from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

As with most of the governments net-zero strategy documents so far, the hydrogen strategy has been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established industry.

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

Hydrogen is extensively viewed as a crucial element in strategies to accomplish net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of significant hype, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

The plan also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the creation of a hydrogen area heated up with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen mixing into gas networks to 20% to reduce reliance on natural gas.

In its new method, the UK government makes it clear that it sees low-carbon hydrogen as a key part of its net-zero plan, and states it desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

However, as the chart listed below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fruition it could then broaden considerably– taking up between 20-35% of the nations total energy supply by 2050. This will require a major expansion of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?


The strategy specifies that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends upon a variety of assumptions, 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 blue vs green hydrogen debate”. He says:.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called … Read More.

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the global warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The chart below, from a document describing hydrogen expenses released together with the main method, shows the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical energy, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

The figure below from the consultation, based on 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 excluded.

Contrast of cost quotes throughout different innovation types at main fuel prices commissioning from 2020 to 2050, ₤/ MWh hydrogen. Source: Hydrogen Production Costs.

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

Supporting a range 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.

Short (hopefully) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done actually terribly & & without any sensible guidelines. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the government ought to “live to the danger of gas industry lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen and so keeping the nation locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

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

It has actually 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 approach for computing these emissions.

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

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, instead of “blue” or “green”, the UK would “consider carbon intensity as the primary factor in market advancement”.

For its part, the CCC has actually advised a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It states enabling some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions much faster in the short-term by changing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is insufficient green hydrogen readily available..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The brand-new method mostly avoids using this colour-coding system, but it says the government has actually dedicated to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these limited cases by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

The strategy also consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electric heat pumps..

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

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

This is in line with the CCCs suggestion 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.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “little” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and advised the government to select its concerns carefully.

Nevertheless, the beginning point for the range– 0TWh– suggests there is considerable unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest quote is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK homes.

Coverage of the report and government advertising materials emphasised that the governments plan would offer adequate hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the federal governments focus on electrical vehicles, which lots of scientists see as more affordable and effective technology.

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage should be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

” Stronger signals of intent could steer public and private financial investments into those locations which include most worth. The government has not clearly set out how to choose upon which sectors will benefit from the initial organized 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through pilots and trials.”.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” commercial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for proof 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.

” As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we need to utilize it where there are couple of options and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a statement.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and many experts have argued that these are the cases where it should be prioritised, at least in the short-term.

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from fuelling automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the technique had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

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

However, in the real report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead option" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will "most likely" be important for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy goods automobiles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. Government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not consisting of blending it into the gas grid, and increasing to 55-165TWh by 2035. It includes plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the development of expediency studies in the coming years, and the federal governments approaching heat and buildings method might likewise offer some clarity. " I would suggest to choose these no-regret alternatives for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". Gniewomir Flis, a project manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He discusses:. In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will take a look at mixing up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? According to the governments press release, its favored model is "constructed on a comparable premise to the overseas wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high dangers for companies intending to enter the sector. Sharelines from this story. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to motivate private investment and an income system to supply financing for business design. Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government says it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and the business model:. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment modification at BEIS-- informed the Times that the cost to provide long-term security to the market would be "extremely small" for private households. The new hydrogen strategy verifies that this service model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen technique, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I simply dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! Call for evidence on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry "within a year"." As the method confesses, there will not be substantial quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are designed to conquer the expense gap between the favored technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new technologies could play in accomplishing the levels of production necessary to fulfill our future [sixth carbon budget] and net-zero dedications.".