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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, company decisions around the extent 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 bottom lines from the 121-page technique and examines a few of the primary talking points around the UKs hydrogen strategies.

Why does the UK require a hydrogen method?

Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, if the governments strategies pertain to fulfillment it could then broaden substantially– using up between 20-35% of the countrys overall energy supply by 2050. This will require a significant growth of facilities and skills in the UK.

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

Business such as Equinor are pushing on with hydrogen advancements in the UK, however industry figures have cautioned that the UK risks being left. Other European nations have actually pledged billions to support low-carbon hydrogen growth.

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen need (pink area) and percentage of last energy intake in 2050 (%). The main range is based on illustrative net-zero constant scenarios in the sixth carbon spending plan impact evaluation and the full variety is based upon the entire variety from hydrogen strategy analytical annex. Source: UK hydrogen strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually noted that, in order to strike the UKs carbon budgets and achieve net-zero emissions, choices in locations such as decarbonising heating and automobiles require to be made in the 2020s to enable time for infrastructure and automobile stock changes.

Hydrogen growth for the next years is expected to start slowly, with a federal government goal to “see 1GW production capacity by 2025” set out in the method.

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

There were likewise over 100 references to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible use in many sectors. It likewise features in the commercial and transport decarbonisation methods launched previously this year.

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

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 debate”. He says:.

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

Green hydrogen is made using electrolysers powered by renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is made using natural gas, with the resulting emissions caught and saved..

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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 primary consider market advancement”.

Many scientists and environmental groups are sceptical about blue hydrogen given its associated emissions.

Short (ideally) reflecting on this blue hydrogen thing. Generally, the papers computations possibly represent a case where blue H ₂ is done truly badly & & without any practical policies. And after that cherry-picked a climate metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

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

The technique states that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by specific innovations “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the marketplaces response to the policies set out in this method and genuine, at-scale release of hydrogen”..

The new method mostly prevents using this colour-coding system, however it states the federal government has committed to a “twin track” method that will consist of the production of both varieties.

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

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

The chart below, from a file describing hydrogen costs launched along with the primary technique, reveals the anticipated declining cost of electrolytic hydrogen in time (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% eco-friendly.).

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq. For an offered amount, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the atmosphere, an amount referred to as … Read More.

This opposition came to a head when a recent study caused headings mentioning that blue hydrogen is “even worse for the climate than coal”.

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

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

As it stands, blue hydrogen used steam methane reformation (SMR) is the most affordable low-carbon hydrogen offered, according to government analysis included in the strategy. (For more on the relative expenses of various hydrogen varieties, see this Carbon Brief explainer.).

” If we want to demonstrate, trial, start to commercialise and then roll out using hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or any place, then we need enough hydrogen. We cant wait up until the supply side considerations are total.”.

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 extremely high methane leakage and a short-term measure of global warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

The figure listed below from the assessment, based on this analysis, shows the effect of setting a limit 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 omitted.

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

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

However, the method likewise consists of the option of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, especially domestic heating, where hydrogen needs to take on electrical heatpump..

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

Juliet Phillips, senior policy consultant and UK hydrogen expert at thinktank E3G tells Carbon Brief the strategy had actually “exposed” the door for usages that “dont add the most value for the climate or economy”. She includes:.

Although low-carbon hydrogen can be utilized to do whatever from fuelling cars and trucks to heating homes, the reality is that it will likely be limited by the volume that can feasibly be produced.

The committee stresses that hydrogen usage need to be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, especially delivering and parts of market” and offering flexibility to the power system.

However, the starting point for the variety– 0TWh– recommends there is substantial unpredictability compared to other sectors, and even the greatest estimate is only around a 10th of the energy presently used to heat UK houses.

Call for proof on “hydrogen-ready” industrial equipment by the end of 2021. Require proof on phaseout of carbon-intensive hydrogen production in industry “within a year”. Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competition in 2021.

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

Protection of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the federal governments strategy would offer sufficient hydrogen to change gas in around 3m houses each year.

Dedications made in the new method include:.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell passenger automobiles. This is consistent with the federal governments concentrate on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers consider as more effective and cost-effective technology.

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, since not all usage cases are equally likely to be successful. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

” As the method admits, there wont be significant amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

In the real report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be reasonably low (<< 1TWh)".. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen beyond these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below shows. This is in line with the CCCs recommendation for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling up to 90TWh by 2035-- around a 3rd of the size of the existing power sector. The brand-new method is clear that industry will be a "lead alternative" for early hydrogen use, beginning in the mid-2020s. It likewise states that it will "most likely" be essential for decarbonising transport-- especially heavy items lorries, shipping and aviation-- and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid. The federal government is more positive about the usage of hydrogen in domestic heating. Its analysis suggests that as much as 45TWh of low-carbon hydrogen could be put to this use by 2035, as the chart listed below shows. Some applications, such as industrial heating, might be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous experts have actually argued that these hold true where it need to be prioritised, at least in the short term. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has actually organised the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with present applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- offered leading concern. Reacting to the report, energy researchers pointed to the "small" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the near future and urged the government to pick its top priorities thoroughly. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which add most worth. The federal government has not clearly laid out how to pick which sectors will take advantage of the initial scheduled 5GW of production and has rather mostly left this to be determined through pilots and trials.". Federal government analysis, consisted of in the strategy, suggests possible hydrogen demand of approximately 38 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, not including blending it into the gas grid, and rising to 55-165TWh by 2035. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen method specifies that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. 1 TWh is 0.2%. In order to create a market for hydrogen, the federal government states it will analyze blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and goal to make a last choice in late 2023. Gniewomir Flis, a task supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- mixing "has no future". He explains:. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency research studies in the coming years, and the governments approaching heat and buildings strategy might likewise offer some clarity. " I would suggest to opt for these no-regret choices for hydrogen need [in industry] that are already available ... those must be the focus.". How does the government plan to support the hydrogen market? Now that its technique has actually been released, the government says it will collect evidence from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business design:. The 10-point strategy included a promise to establish a hydrogen company model to motivate private investment and an earnings mechanism to supply financing for the company design. Hydrogen demand (pink location) and percentage of last energy consumption 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 strategy confesses, there will not be significant quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy mentions that the federal government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. These agreements are created to get rid of the expense gap in between the preferred technology and nonrenewable fuel sources. Hydrogen producers would be offered a payment that bridges this space. The brand-new hydrogen method verifies that this service design will be finalised in 2022, making it possible for the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been launched along with the primary technique. " This will give us a better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will fulfill a ramp-up in demand, and the function that brand-new innovations might play in achieving the levels of production required to meet our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero dedications.". As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains pricey compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is unpredictability about the level of future need and high threats for business intending to enter the sector. According to the governments press release, its favored design is "constructed on a similar property to the overseas wind contracts for distinction (CfDs)", which significantly cut costs of new offshore wind farms. Sharelines from this story. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the prepare for a hydrogen market "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would originate from either greater costs or public funds. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, clean growth and environment change at BEIS-- told the Times that the cost to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "very small" for private homes.