Hydrogen found to be unsuitable for home heating

A report on hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas has revealed that energy costs could spiral by up to 70% for consumers making it unsuitable for use in home heating. 

Leading energy analysts, Cornwall Insight, reported that using hydrogen for home heating may not be the solution initially hoped for by the Government to reach net zero by 2050, due to the large costs associated with its use. 

Plans to allow the implementation of a hydrogen and fossil fuel blend are currently being considered for a large-scale rollout to supply gas boilers in homes in just four years. 

Researchers reviewed 32 studies on hydrogen with the conclusion that it was unlikely to be a sufficiently cost-effective solution to replace fossil fuel for home energy. 

Bringing down generation costs 

“While hydrogen does have a part to play in the decarbonisation pathway, through for example use in the industrial sectors and in the use of surplus electricity, current and forecast costs all show it is simply uneconomical to use a 100% hydrogen fuel for heating our homes,” said Jitendra Patel, senior consultant at Cornwall Insight and an author of the report. 

“We do however see benefits in accelerating the roll-out of renewable generation to help bring down generation costs and we predict a near cost parity between green and blue hydrogen production methods by 2030 when using surplus electricity.” 

Juliet Philips, senior policy advisor at E3G, said: “We are in a cost-of-living crisis caused by exposure to international fossil fuel markets. In order to bring down bills permanently, we need to invest in solutions which permanently get us off gas – such as home insulation, heat pumps and renewables. 

“In contrast, blue hydrogen, produced using fossil fuels, further weds us to volatile international gas markets. And as this new research shows, it could also hike up consumer bills. We urge the government to listen to the economics and the science ahead of making big decisions on hydrogen for heating – or it will be consumers who end up footing the bill.” 

Highly sceptical of gas industry’s sales pitch 

Chaitanya Kumar, head of environment and green transition at the New Economics Foundation, said: “There is way too much hype around hydrogen and while some of it is legitimate, the focus on it for domestic heating is a mirage and governments should be highly sceptical of the gas industry’s sales pitch. 

“It is evident that natural gas from the North Sea will never offer true energy independence for the UK and if the current energy crisis has taught us anything, it should be to turbocharge the transition away from natural gas, not entrench our reliance on it. Boosting domestic renewables and cutting energy demand permanently are the only two genuinely sustainable solutions facing us.” 

Jonathon Porritt, founder and director of Forum for the Future, said: “This is an extremely timely and significant report, sending the clearest possible signal to Ministers that using hydrogen to replace natural gas for domestic heating is an unwise and potentially dangerous distraction. 

Millions of homes where heat pumps won’t be suitable

“Future supplies of green hydrogen must be prioritised for the hard-to-abate sectors, and blue hydrogen looks more and more unviable given astronomically high gas prices persisting well into the future.” 

Martyn Bridges, director of technical services at Worcester Bosch Group, said: “There are also available a number of other reports that don’t forecast this higher price. I also agree with many of the sentiments that we should be insulating everything we can so as to reduce heat losses and consequential energy usage.

“As much as I admire heat pump technology there will be millions of homes where it just won’t be suitable, be that through lack of space, financial constraints, electricity supply etc, etc. In those cases, we need an alternative and a Hydrogen boiler fits the bill where a heat pump doesn’t.”