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

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

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

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

In this post, Carbon Brief highlights key points from the 121-page method and analyzes some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

Nevertheless, as the chart below programs, if the governments plans concern fruition it could then broaden substantially– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

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

The strategy likewise required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area heated with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to lower dependence on gas.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from natural gas– as a way for fossil fuel companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs extensive explainer.).

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

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and attain net-zero emissions, decisions in locations such as decarbonising heating and cars need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for facilities and lorry stock changes.

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The central range is based on illustrative net-zero consistent scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan effect assessment and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen technique.

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

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

Prior to the brand-new method, the prime ministers 10-point plan in November 2020 consisted of strategies to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Presently, this capacity stands at practically zero.

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as an essential element in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the topic of considerable buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery strategies.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to begin slowly, with a government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” laid out in the technique.

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

As with most of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen strategy has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this fledgling market.

Companies such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however industry figures have alerted that the UK dangers being left behind. Other European countries have vowed billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

Its versatility implies it can be used to take on emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it presently experiences high rates and low effectiveness..

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

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The previous is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still lead to emissions due to methane leaks from gas facilities and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not catch 100% of emissions..

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


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 consider market advancement”.

Prof Robert Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, tells Carbon Brief that, in his view, it is “probably a bit unhelpful to get too preoccupied with the green vs blue hydrogen argument”. He says:.

Green hydrogen is used electrolysers powered by sustainable electricity, while blue hydrogen is used gas, with the resulting emissions captured and saved..

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a document outlining hydrogen expenses launched together with the primary strategy, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

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

The federal government has actually released a consultation on low-carbon hydrogen standards to accompany the strategy, with a pledge to “finalise design elements” of such standards by early 2022.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the impact of setting a threshold of 15-20gCO2e per megajoule (MJ) of hydrogen (red bar). In this example, those production methods above the red line, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

There was considerable pushback on this conclusion, with other scientists– including CCC head of carbon spending plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming capacity that stressed the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

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

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

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a declaration that the government ought to “live to the risk of gas industry lobbying triggering it to devote too heavily to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

Brief (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. And then cherry-picked an environment 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 an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount known as … Read More.

The strategy notes that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “could become cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon storage, utilisation and capture] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

It has also launched an accompanying report, prepared by consultancies E4Tech and Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST), which analyzes optimum appropriate levels of emissions for low-carbon hydrogen production and the methodology for calculating these emissions.

The technique mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a range of assumptions, which can just be evaluated through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, various greenhouse gases trap different amounts of heat in the environment, an amount called the international warming capacity. Carbon dioxide equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not simply co2.

The file does not do that and rather says it will provide “more information on our production technique and twin track technique by early 2022”.

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen made utilizing steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen available, according to government analysis consisted of in the strategy. (For more on the relative costs of various hydrogen ranges, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

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

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

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “small” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to pick its concerns carefully.

In the real report, the federal government said that it anticipated “in general the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. It contains plans for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Commitments made in the brand-new strategy consist of:. Coverage of the report and government marketing materials emphasised that the federal governments strategy would supply sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually arranged using low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- provided top concern. The government is more positive about using 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. Federal government analysis, included in the technique, suggests prospective hydrogen need of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including mixing it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of professionals have actually argued that these are the cases where it need to be prioritised, a minimum of in the brief term. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. The CCC does not see substantial usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart listed below programs. My lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody brand-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 similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Require proof on "hydrogen-ready" industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Call for 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. However, the technique likewise consists of the alternative of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electric heatpump.. " Stronger signals of intent could steer public and personal investments into those areas which include most value. The government has not clearly set out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be identified through trials and pilots.". The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead choice" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "likely" be very important for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items vehicles, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. One noteworthy exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This follows the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers deem more efficient and cost-effective technology. 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 "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. " As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. The committee stresses that hydrogen use should be limited to "areas less fit to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry" and supplying versatility to the power system. Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do everything from sustaining vehicles to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and buildings method may also provide some clarity. Gniewomir Flis, a task manager at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already offered ... those ought to be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a final decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen market? These contracts are created to overcome the expense gap between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 admits, there will not be considerable amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique states that the federal government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. According to the federal governments news release, its favored design is "built on a similar facility to the overseas wind contracts for difference (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of brand-new overseas wind farms. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high dangers for companies intending to enter the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, focused on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher expenses or public funds. The 10-point strategy included a pledge to develop a hydrogen service design to motivate personal financial investment and a revenue system to supply funding for the service design. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will meet a ramp-up in need, and the role that new technologies could play in attaining the levels of production required to meet our future [6th carbon budget plan] and net-zero commitments.". Now that its strategy has actually been released, the government states it will gather evidence from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. The new hydrogen technique verifies that this organization design will be settled in 2022, allowing the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been introduced along with the primary technique. Sharelines from this story. Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy growth and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to provide long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for private homes.