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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen will be “crucial” for accomplishing the UKs net-zero target and could consume to a 3rd of the nations energy by 2050, according to the government.

Why does the UK need a hydrogen strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrogen is commonly viewed as a vital element in plans to attain net-zero emissions and has actually been the subject of substantial buzz, with many countries prioritising it in their post-Covid green recovery plans.

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

There were also over 100 recommendations to hydrogen throughout the governments energy white paper, showing its possible usage in numerous sectors. It also features in the industrial and transport decarbonisation strategies released previously this year.

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

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

Its flexibility indicates it can be utilized to deal with emissions in “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as heavy industry, however it currently experiences high prices and low performance..

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

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

Prior to the new method, the prime ministers 10-point strategy in November 2020 consisted of plans to produce five gigawatts (GW) of annual low-carbon hydrogen production in the UK by 2030. Currently, this capacity stands at virtually no.

As the chart below programs, if the governments strategies come to fruition it could then broaden considerably– taking up in between 20-35% of the countrys total energy supply by 2050. This will need a significant expansion of infrastructure and skills in the UK.

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

Nevertheless, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually kept in mind that, in order to hit the UKs carbon budget plans and attain net-zero emissions, choices in areas such as decarbonising heating and lorries need to be made in the 2020s to permit time for infrastructure and vehicle stock modifications.

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

What range of low-carbon hydrogen will be prioritised?

The plan keeps in mind that, in many cases, hydrogen made utilizing electrolysers “could end up being cost-competitive with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage] -made it possible for 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”.

For its part, the CCC has actually recommended a “blue hydrogen bridge” as a helpful tool for attaining net-zero. It says permitting some blue hydrogen will decrease emissions quicker in the short-term by replacing more fossil fuels with hydrogen when there is not enough green hydrogen offered..

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

Supporting a range of tasks will offer the UK a “competitive advantage”, according to the government. Germany, by contrast, has said it will focus exclusively 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 “think about carbon strength as the primary element in market development”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

CO2 equivalent: Greenhouse gases can be revealed in regards to co2 equivalent, or CO2eq. For a provided quantity, different greenhouse gases trap various quantities of heat in the environment, an amount referred to as the international warming capacity. Co2 equivalent is a way of comparing emissions from all greenhouse gases, not just co2.

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, including some for producing blue hydrogen, would be left out.

There was significant pushback on this conclusion, with other researchers– consisting of CCC head of carbon budgets, David Joffe– pointing out that it relied on very high methane leak and a short-term measure of international warming potential that emphasised the effect of methane emissions over CO2.

It has likewise released 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 previously mentioned that the government must “set out [a] vision for contributions of hydrogen production from various paths to 2035” in its hydrogen strategy.

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

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 blue vs green hydrogen argument”. He says:.

Short (hopefully) assessing this blue hydrogen thing. Essentially, the papers calculations potentially represent a case where blue H ₂ is done really terribly & & without any practical guidelines. And then cherry-picked an environment metric to make it look as bad as possible.— David Joffe (@david_joffe) August 13, 2021.

The former is essentially zero-carbon, but the latter can still result in emissions due to methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure and the truth that carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not capture 100% of emissions..

” If we desire to demonstrate, trial, begin to commercialise and then present the usage of hydrogen in industry/air travel/freight or wherever, then we require enough hydrogen. We cant wait until the supply side deliberations are total.”.

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

The chart below, from a document laying out hydrogen expenses released alongside the main technique, shows the anticipated decreasing cost of electrolytic hydrogen gradually (green lines). (This includes hydrogen made using grid electrical power, which is not technically green unless the grid is 100% renewable.).

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

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

The method specifies that the percentage of hydrogen supplied by particular technologies “depends on a variety of assumptions, which can just be tested through the markets response to the policies set out in this method and real, at-scale deployment of hydrogen”..

This opposition came to a head when a current study caused headings specifying that blue hydrogen is “worse for the environment than coal”.


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

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

The committee stresses that hydrogen use must be restricted to “locations less suited to electrification, particularly delivering and parts of market” and offering versatility to the power system.

One notable exemption is hydrogen for fuel-cell guest vehicles. This follows the governments focus on electrical automobiles, which lots of researchers deem more effective and cost-efficient technology.

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

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

The brand-new technique is clear that market will be a “lead alternative” for early hydrogen use, starting in the mid-2020s. It also says that it will “likely” be essential for decarbonising transportation– particularly heavy items cars, shipping and aviation– and stabilizing a more renewables-heavy grid.

” As the strategy admits, there wont be considerable quantities of low-carbon hydrogen for some time.

So, my lovelies, I just dropped Version 4 of the Clean Hydrogen Ladder! For anybody new to all this, the ladder is my effort to put use cases for clean hydrogen into some sort of merit order, because not all usage cases are similarly likely to succeed. 1/10— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) August 15, 2021.

Commitments made in the new strategy consist of:.

In the actual report, the federal government stated that it expected “in general the demand for low carbon hydrogen for heating by 2030 to be fairly low (<< 1TWh)".. Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor and UK hydrogen professional at thinktank E3G informs Carbon Brief the method had actually "left open" the door for usages that "do not add the most value for the environment or economy". She includes:. Michael Liebrich of Liebreich Associates has arranged the use of low-carbon hydrogen into a "ladder", with existing applications-- such as the chemicals industry-- given top concern. It consists of strategies for hydrogen heating trials and assessment on "hydrogen-ready" boilers by 2026. Reacting to the report, energy researchers indicated the "miniscule" volumes of hydrogen anticipated to be produced in the future and prompted the federal government to choose its priorities thoroughly. Illustrative hydrogen need in 2030 (blue) and 2035 (purple). Source: UK hydrogen technique. " Stronger signals of intent could guide public and private investments into those locations which add most value. The government has actually not plainly laid out how to pick which sectors will benefit from the preliminary scheduled 5GW of production and has instead mostly left this to be figured out through trials and pilots.". Some applications, such as commercial heating, may be virtually difficult without a supply of hydrogen, and numerous specialists have argued that these are the cases where it ought to be prioritised, at least in the short-term. The method likewise includes the alternative of using hydrogen in sectors that may be better served by electrification, particularly domestic heating, where hydrogen has to contend with electrical heat pumps.. The CCC does not see extensive usage of hydrogen outside of these restricted cases by 2035, as the chart below programs. The beginning point for the variety-- 0TWh-- recommends there is significant uncertainty compared to other sectors, and even the highest price quote is just around a 10th of the energy currently utilized to heat UK homes. This is in line with the CCCs suggestion for its net-zero path, which sees low-carbon hydrogen scaling as much as 90TWh by 2035-- around a third of the size of the existing power sector. Protection of the report and government promotional products emphasised that the governments strategy would supply enough hydrogen to change natural gas in around 3m homes each year. Although low-carbon hydrogen can be used to do everything from sustaining automobiles to heating houses, the truth is that it will likely be restricted by the volume that can probably be produced. Require 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". Stage 2 of the ₤ 315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.A ₤ 55 million Industrial Fuel Switching 2 competitors in 2021. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen strategy specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. Present energy demand in the UK for area and warm water heating is 435 TWh according to Ofgem. 1 TWh is 0.2%. Thats about 67,000 homes.-- Jan Rosenow (@janrosenow) August 17, 2021. Gniewomir Flis, a project supervisor at Agora Energiewende, informs Carbon Brief that-- in his view-- blending "has no future". He discusses:. Much will depend upon the progress of expediency studies in the coming years, and the governments upcoming heat and structures method might likewise offer some clarity. " I would suggest to go with these no-regret options for hydrogen need [in market] that are currently offered ... those must be the focus.". In order to produce a market for hydrogen, the federal government says it will examine blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas network by late 2022 and objective to make a last decision in late 2023. How does the federal government strategy to support the hydrogen industry? The 10-point plan included a promise to establish a hydrogen service model to motivate private financial investment and an income system to provide financing for the company model. The brand-new hydrogen method validates that this company design will be finalised in 2022, allowing the first contracts to be designated from the start of 2023. This is pending another assessment, which has actually been released along with the main strategy. Hydrogen need (pink location) and percentage of final energy consumption in 2050 (%). My lovelies, I just 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 wont be substantial amounts of low-carbon hydrogen for some time. 4) On page 62 the hydrogen technique specifies that the government anticipates << 1 TWh of energy for heating to come from hydrogen by 2030. As it stands, low-carbon hydrogen remains expensive compared to nonrenewable fuel source alternatives, there is uncertainty about the level of future need and high threats for companies intending to get in the sector. Much of the resulting press protection of the hydrogen method, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, concentrated on the plan for a hydrogen industry "subsidised by taxpayers", as the cash would come from either higher expenses or public funds. Sharelines from this story. According to the governments press release, its preferred model is "constructed on a similar premise to the offshore wind agreements for difference (CfDs)", which considerably cut expenses of new offshore wind farms. " This will give us a much better understanding of the mix of production technologies, how we will satisfy a ramp-up in demand, and the function that new innovations could play in achieving the levels of production required to fulfill our future [sixth carbon spending plan] and net-zero commitments.". However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan-- minister for energy, tidy development and environment change at BEIS-- informed the Times that the expense to supply long-lasting security to the market would be "extremely small" for specific families. These agreements are created to overcome the expense space between the favored technology and fossil fuels. Hydrogen producers would be given a payment that bridges this gap. Now that its strategy has been released, the government says it will gather proof from assessments on its low-carbon hydrogen standard, net-zero hydrogen fund and business model:.