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

On the other hand, firm choices around the extent of hydrogen usage in domestic heating and how to ensure it is produced in a low-carbon way have actually been delayed or put out to consultation for the time being.

In this short article, Carbon Brief highlights essential points from the 121-page technique and examines some of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen plans.

The UKs brand-new, long-awaited hydrogen method provides more information on how the federal government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector, which today is practically non-existent.

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

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

Why does the UK require a hydrogen technique?

The strategy also required a ₤ 240m net-zero hydrogen fund, the production of a hydrogen area warmed with the gas by 2023, and increasing hydrogen blending into gas networks to 20% to decrease reliance on natural gas.

Its versatility suggests it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy market, however it currently experiences high rates and low efficiency..

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the federal governments energy white paper, reflecting its prospective use in lots of sectors. It also includes in the commercial and transportation decarbonisation methods released previously this year.

Prior to the new strategy, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 included plans to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of yearly low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capability stands at practically no.

Hydrogen is widely viewed as an essential component in plans to accomplish net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with numerous countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing plans.

Hydrogen need (pink area) and proportion of final energy intake in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero constant circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan effect assessment and the full range is based on the entire range from hydrogen method analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen method.

A recent All Party Parliamentary Group report on the role of hydrogen in powering industry consisted of a list of demands, mentioning that the government must “expand beyond its existing dedications of 5GW production in the upcoming hydrogen method”. This call has been echoed by some market groups.

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and cars require to be made in the 2020s to allow time for facilities and vehicle stock modifications.

Business such as Equinor are pressing on with hydrogen developments in the UK, however market figures have actually cautioned that the UK dangers being left. Other European countries have actually promised billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

Hydrogen development for the next years is anticipated to start slowly, with a federal government aspiration to “see 1GW production capability by 2025” laid out in the method.

Critics likewise characterise hydrogen– the majority of which is presently made from gas– as a way for nonrenewable fuel source companies to keep the status quo. (For all the advantages and downsides of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs in-depth explainer.).

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

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

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

Nevertheless, as with most of the governments net-zero method documents up until now, the hydrogen plan has actually been postponed by months, resulting in uncertainty around the future of this recently established market.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For a given quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the global warming potential. Co2 equivalent is a method of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered quantity, different greenhouse gases trap different quantities of heat in the atmosphere, a quantity known as … Read More.


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

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

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

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

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 factor in market advancement”.

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 green vs blue hydrogen debate”. He states:.

The plan notes that, in many cases, hydrogen made using electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -made it possible for methane reformation as early as 2025”..

The document does refrain from doing that and instead states it will provide “additional information on our production strategy and twin track method by early 2022”.

Environmental groups and lots of scientists are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

Jess Ralston, an expert at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said in a statement that the federal government ought to “be alive to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too greatly to blue hydrogen therefore keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based innovation”.

The method mentions that the proportion of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be checked through the marketplaces reaction to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale implementation of hydrogen”..

Green hydrogen is made utilizing electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using gas, with the resulting emissions recorded and stored..

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for accomplishing net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by changing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is inadequate green hydrogen available..

The brand-new strategy mainly avoids utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the government has devoted to a “twin track” approach that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

It has actually likewise 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 method for calculating these emissions.

The CCC has formerly specified “appropriate emissions decreases” for blue hydrogen compared to fossil gas as “at least 95% CO2 capture, 85% lifecycle greenhouse gas savings”.

The chart below, from a document detailing hydrogen expenses launched along with the primary method, shows the expected decreasing expense of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

Short (ideally) reviewing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any sensible regulations. And then cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The former is basically zero-carbon, however 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..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do whatever from fuelling cars to heating homes, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

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

Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised making use of low-carbon hydrogen into a “ladder”, with present applications– such as the chemicals market– given leading concern.

Dedications made in the new strategy include:.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the federal government to choose its concerns carefully.

One significant exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell automobile. This is constant with the governments focus on electric cars, which lots of scientists view as more economical and efficient innovation.

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

Some applications, such as commercial heating, might be practically difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these hold true where it should be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

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

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

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.

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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage must be limited to “areas less matched to electrification, especially delivering and parts of industry” and providing flexibility to the power system.

Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen specialist at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the method had actually “left open” the door for usages that “dont include the most worth for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

However, in the actual report, the government stated that it anticipated “overall the need for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The federal government is more positive about the use of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart below suggests. Nevertheless, the method likewise consists of the choice of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that may be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to compete with electrical heat pumps.. My lovelies, I simply 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 clean hydrogen into some sort of benefit order, due to the fact that not all use cases are equally most likely to prosper. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021. Federal government analysis, included in the strategy, suggests prospective hydrogen demand of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. The brand-new strategy is clear that market will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise says that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transportation-- especially heavy products vehicles, shipping and air travel-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. " Stronger signals of intent might steer personal and public financial investments into those locations which include most value. The government has actually not clearly laid out how to choose which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather largely left this to be identified through pilots and trials.". It consists of prepare for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. 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. 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 houses.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a job manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. " I would recommend to opt for these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are already readily available ... those need to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the government states it will take a look at blending as much as 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and aim to make a decision in late 2023. Much will hinge on the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures strategy may likewise provide some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Hydrogen need (pink area) 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there will not be substantial 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. " This will offer us a much better understanding of the mix of production innovations, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in need, and the function that new innovations could play in attaining the levels of production essential to fulfill our future [6th carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". The brand-new hydrogen strategy confirms that this service design will be finalised in 2022, enabling the first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has been released alongside the main strategy. Sharelines from this story. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen stays pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future demand and high threats for business intending to go into the sector. These agreements are developed to get rid of the cost gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be provided a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen strategy, 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 bills or public funds. The 10-point plan consisted of a promise to develop a hydrogen company design to motivate private financial investment and a revenue mechanism to provide funding for the service model. According to the governments press release, its favored model is "developed on a similar facility to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which substantially cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Now that its strategy has actually been published, the federal government states it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen requirement, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. Nevertheless, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to offer long-lasting security to the market would be "really small" for individual homes.