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UK Hydrogen Strategy release: E3G experts respond

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Engineer in white helmet and red work wear on metal pipe and tubes background.
Engineer in white helmet and red work wear on metal pipe and tubes background. Photo by Alexey Rezvykh via Adobe Stock.

The Government has launched the UK Hydrogen Strategy, which contains welcome ambition to scale up production of green, low carbon fuel that can play a central role in decarbonising certain industries.

  • Blue hydrogen, produced using fossil fuels, isn’t meaningfully zero emissions. E3G is concerned that the current twin track approach of pursuing both blue and green hydrogen does not have clear governance mechanisms for shifting to a truly zero emissions economy. This is needed to avoid a lock-in of high carbon jobs and infrastructure, or risk stranded assets.  
  • The Heat & Buildings Strategy must explain where hydrogen for heating is and isn’t likely, avoiding a nationwide rollout of so-called hydrogen-ready boilers, or ‘blending’ hydrogen into the gas grid. This could act as a Trojan horse that allows continued use of fossil gas into our homes for decades to come.

Story – UK Hydrogen Strategy

Clean, green hydrogen produced using renewable energy could play a key role in decarbonising certain important sectors of the economy, such as heavy industry and steel. The Government’s Hydrogen Strategy shows some welcome ambition but must be followed through with clear governance mechanisms, and a plan to finance green hydrogen growth which spreads the costs fairly. 

The UK Hydrogen Strategy backs a ‘twin track’ of pursuing green hydrogen and fossil-fuel based blue hydrogen – but lacks detail about how the transition away from this latter will be managed. Clarity on measures to avoid a lock-in of high carbon jobs and infrastructure will be essential to keep on track for climate targets and avoid stranded assets and jobs. 

The Government has delayed decisions on blending hydrogen into the fossil gas grid and the role of hydrogen for heating, such as the roll-out of so-called hydrogen ready boilers. This leaves the door ajar for a fossil fuel Trojan Horse, with gas used in our homes for decades to come. The forthcoming Heat & Buildings Strategy will need to be clear on where hydrogen will and won’t likely make sense for heating our homes.

Quotes

Lisa Fischer, E3G Energy Systems Programme Leader says:

It is welcome that the UK wants to become a leader in hydrogen. Yet this strategy might end up as a “twin track to nowhere” leaving the climate behind. It currently lacks the focus to deliver any real progress or global leadership and delays critical decisions for the future of heating and gas networks. Much tighter governance is needed to ensure fast emissions reductions and forthcoming decisions should follow the highest standards of transparency and scientific input. 

Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor and UK hydrogen expert says:

Green hydrogen can play an important role supporting certain sectors move towards a zero emissions economy – such as heavy industry and steel. Hydrogen makes much less sense where demand can be met by the UK’s growing supply of renewable energy with direct electrification. Hydrogen has between a third and one sixth of the efficiency of readily available clean heat solutions such as electricity-powered heat pumps. 

 

The new Strategy leaves the door open for mandating so-called ‘hydrogen ready boilers’ – rather than providing clarity on where these might and might not make sense across the country. Worryingly, it leaves the door ajar for blending hydrogen into the gas grid – a Trojan Horse that would keep our heating running on fossil gas, while consumers pick up the tab. We hope this can be clarified in the forthcoming Heat & Buildings Strategy. 

Khem Rogaly, Researcher and clean economy expert says:

The government’s insistence on a ‘twin track’ approach to hydrogen is a missed opportunity to become an international leader with a truly clean, green hydrogen economy. ‘Blue’ fossil-based hydrogen is not zero emissions – and without proper regulation in place, it could lock in high carbon infrastructure and jobs. Giving equal priority to investment in blue hydrogen – green hydrogen is a proven clean technology that will be cheaper in the long run – does not add up environmentally or economically.

 

The government must prioritise green hydrogen and accelerate investment in a technology that makes use of offshore wind to create good quality jobs for the long-term, while keeping climate targets in sight. Accelerating investment in green hydrogen would help address regional inequalities by creating prosperous industrial hubs while building a strong base for future energy exports.

Available for comment

For further quotes on the UK Hydrogen Strategy from E3G experts please call +44 (0) 7783 787 863 or email press@e3g.org.

Notes to Editors

  1. E3G is an independent European climate change think tank accelerating the transition to a climate safe world. E3G is made up of world leading strategists on the political economy of climate change, dedicated to achieving a safe climate for all.
  2. In 2020, E3G was ranked the seventh most globally influential environmental think tank by the Global Go To Think Tank Index.
  3. In March 2021, E3G considered the offer of hydrogen for key Government priorities – including an inclusive and resilient economic recovery from the pandemic, demonstrating climate leadership, and delivering for all of society across the UK. We assessed evidence and considered the risks and opportunities, and how they might inform a strategic vision for the UK. Read it here -> Between hope and hype: a hydrogen vision for the UK – E3G

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