It’s still early days for the global green hydrogen rollout, but the UK government has taken another step to support the growth of the industry. Last month they published a response to their Low Carbon Hydrogen Certification Scheme, which gives hydrogen producers a way of proving the low-carbon credentials of their products. Here we take a look at the scheme and why it’s a vital piece of the clean energy puzzle.
Why a certification scheme?
Hydrogen can be produced in several ways, with different methods creating different levels of emissions. The certificates will demonstrate compliance with the Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard (LCHS) and verify the emissions credentials from hydrogen production. The government is introducing the scheme to build transparency and confidence across the sector. But there are other potential benefits too, like demonstrating eligibility and compliance for subsidy schemes, unlocking access to new low carbon markets, and creating a meaningful method of reporting progress on decarbonisation targets.
Achieving the ambition
The Government has set a target of 10 gigawatts (GW) of low carbon hydrogen by 2030, half of which will be green hydrogen generated from renewables. And within this, Ministers aim to have up to 1GW of electrolytic hydrogen in construction or operational by 2025. According to Renewable UK, there are currently only about 5 megawatts (MW) of green hydrogen projects operational in the UK, so a package of support measures is going to be essential to kickstart the industry.
The main mechanisms from government are the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund2 (NZHF) and Hydrogen Production Business Model (HPBM). The eligibility criteria for both schemes require a way to define and ultimately prove that the hydrogen produced is low carbon. The Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard (LCHS) sets a maximum threshold for greenhouse gas emissions allowed in the production process for hydrogen to be considered ‘low carbon hydrogen’. To build on the LCHS, the government committed to setting up a hydrogen certification scheme from 2025.
There is currently no recognised way for producers of low carbon hydrogen to prove the credentials of their product. Whilst the certification scheme will be voluntary, the producers who are supported through the Hydrogen Production Business Model (HPBM) and Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF) require their hydrogen to comply with the LCHS on order to be awarded the support. Certificates will contain a single label to show that a volume of hydrogen is LCHS-compliant, alongside the GHG emissions of the hydrogen.
Who will deliver the scheme and when?
The delivery partner will be the Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC), who also administers the Contracts for Difference scheme amongst others. The certification scheme is due to be launched in 2025. In the time before this there’s more to be agreed on the design and implementation of the certificates, as well as how future phases of the scheme will be able to support both imports and exports of hydrogen. The scheme will need to be flexible and evolve as the hydrogen market develops.
Today, at least half a million businesses rely on gas for their operations. The options for decarbonisation for these processes are limited. Electrification is preferable but isn’t always possible. Either because of the requirement for intense heat or because already stretched grid infrastructure can’t handle the significant additional load that would be needed. It’s also important to remember that most of the hydrogen used right now in the UK is grey, from fossil fuels. With some calling for the government to give a firm date for banning grey hydrogen in the UK, a certification scheme for hydrogen is going to be a vital piece of the puzzle.
As a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen is a leading candidate for cleaning up industries responsible for vast quantities of carbon emissions. But it only works if that hydrogen is low carbon. The Low Carbon Hydrogen Certification Scheme has the potential to offer the transparency and assurance to make that ambition a reality.