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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does the UK need a hydrogen technique?

However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon spending plans and achieve net-zero emissions, decisions in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and lorry stock changes.

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

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

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

Hydrogen is widely seen as a vital part in plans to achieve net-zero emissions and has been the subject of significant buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green healing strategies.

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

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

However, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies concern fulfillment it might then expand substantially– taking up between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a major growth of facilities and abilities in the UK.

In its new technique, 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 desires the nation to be a “worldwide leader on hydrogen” by 2030.

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

As with many of the governments net-zero method files so far, the hydrogen plan has actually been delayed by months, resulting in unpredictability around the future of this new market.

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

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

The method does not increase this target, although it keeps in mind that the government is “familiar with a prospective pipeline of over 15GW of projects”.

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

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

Hydrogen demand (pink location) and proportion of last energy consumption in 2050 (%). The main variety is based upon illustrative net-zero consistent circumstances in the sixth carbon budget plan impact evaluation and the complete range is based on the entire variety from hydrogen technique analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

Critics also characterise hydrogen– many of which is currently made from gas– as a method for nonrenewable fuel source companies to maintain the status quo. (For all the benefits and disadvantages of hydrogen, see Carbon Briefs thorough explainer.).

What variety of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

Quick (hopefully) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers estimations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly severely & & with no reasonable policies. And after that cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

Environmental groups and numerous researchers are sceptical about blue hydrogen offered its associated emissions.

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and after that present using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait till the supply side considerations are total.”.

The plan keeps in mind that, sometimes, hydrogen used electrolysers “might end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, storage and utilisation] -allowed methane reformation as early as 2025”..

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

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

Jess Ralston, an analyst at thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), stated in a declaration that the federal government ought to “live to the risk of gas market lobbying triggering it to commit too heavily to blue hydrogen and so keeping the country locked into fossil fuel-based technology”.

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

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

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

Nevertheless, there was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– including CCC head of carbon budget plans, David Joffe– pointing out that it counted on really high methane leakage and a short-term procedure of worldwide warming capacity that stressed the impact of methane emissions over CO2.

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 dispute”. He says:.

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

For its part, the CCC has suggested a “blue hydrogen bridge” as an useful tool for achieving net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will minimize emissions faster in the short-term by replacing more nonrenewable fuel sources with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen readily available..

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


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

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

The new strategy mainly prevents utilizing this colour-coding system, however it says the federal government has actually devoted to a “twin track” method that will include the production of both ranges.

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

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

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

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

The chart below, from a file laying out hydrogen costs released along with the main strategy, reveals the anticipated declining expense of electrolytic hydrogen over time (green lines). (This consists of hydrogen used grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% sustainable.).

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

The figure listed below from the consultation, based upon this analysis, shows 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, consisting of some for producing blue hydrogen, would be excluded.

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

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

This opposition capped when a recent research study led to headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “worse for the climate than coal”.

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen provided by specific innovations “depends on a variety of presumptions, which can only be tested through the markets reaction to the policies set out in this technique and genuine, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

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

The committee emphasises that hydrogen usage should be limited to “locations less matched to electrification, especially shipping and parts of market” and supplying flexibility to the power system.

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

” As the technique confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for a long time. [] we require to use it where there are couple of alternatives and not as a like-for-like replacement of gas,” Dr Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, in a declaration.

The strategy also consists of the option of utilizing hydrogen in sectors that might be much better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to complete with electric heat pumps..

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

This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling approximately 90TWh by 2035– around a third of the size of the present power sector.

Call for evidence on “hydrogen-ready” industrial 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.

The new strategy is clear that market will be a “lead option” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will “likely” be very important for decarbonising transportation– especially heavy items lorries, shipping and air travel– and balancing a more renewables-heavy grid.

The federal government is more optimistic about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis recommends that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen might be put to this usage by 2035, as the chart listed below shows.

Low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from sustaining vehicles to heating houses, the reality is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced.

Federal government analysis, consisted of in the technique, suggests potential hydrogen need of up to 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035.

Dedications made in the brand-new method consist of:.

Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the “miniscule” volumes of hydrogen expected to be produced in the future and advised the federal government to pick its priorities carefully.

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

” Stronger signals of intent could guide public and personal investments into those locations which add most value. The government has not clearly set out how to decide upon which sectors will take advantage of the preliminary planned 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through trials and pilots.”.

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

Coverage of the report and government promotional materials stressed that the governments plan would offer sufficient hydrogen to replace gas in around 3m homes each year.

Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be practically impossible without a supply of hydrogen, and lots of specialists have actually argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, a minimum of in the short-term.

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the technique had “exposed” the door for uses that “do not add the most value for the environment or economy”. She includes:.

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

One significant exclusion is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electric vehicles, which lots of scientists view as more effective and cost-effective technology.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it anticipated “overall the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique mentions that the government expects << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Current energy need in the UK for space 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 project manager at Agora Energiewende, tells Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He describes:. " I would recommend to choose these no-regret choices for hydrogen demand [in market] that are currently readily available ... those ought to be the focus.". Finally, in order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will take a look at blending approximately 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a decision in late 2023. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the federal governments upcoming heat and structures strategy might likewise offer some clarity. How does the government plan to support the hydrogen industry? Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and climate change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to offer long-term security to the market would be "really small" for specific homes. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company model will be finalised in 2022, enabling the very first contracts to be assigned from the start of 2023. This is pending another consultation, which has actually been introduced along with the primary method. The 10-point plan consisted of a pledge to develop a hydrogen organization model to motivate personal investment and a profits mechanism to provide financing for the organization design. Sharelines from this story. Hydrogen need (pink location) and proportion 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 market "within a year"." As the method admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in need, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in accomplishing the levels of production required to fulfill our future [6th carbon budget] and net-zero commitments.". These contracts are developed to get rid of the expense space in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen manufacturers would be given a payment that bridges this space. Much of the resulting press coverage of the hydrogen strategy, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either higher costs or public funds. Now that its strategy has been released, the federal government says it will collect proof from consultations on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and the organization model:. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains costly compared to fossil fuel options, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to go into the sector. According to the federal governments news release, its preferred design is "constructed on a similar premise to the overseas wind agreements for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new overseas wind farms.