Feb 15, 2022

UK Hydrogen Strategy- hydrogen for heat in buildings

The release of the UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy details the key steps the UK is taking to deliver the ‘promise’ hydrogen makes for decarbonisation.

The UK is aiming to drive progress throughout the 2020s to deliver a 5GW hydrogen production ambition by 2030, supporting net zero commitments. Hydrogen is argued to support decarbonisation in ‘hard to electrify’ industrial sectors, and provide greener, flexible energy across power, heat and transport. However, the adoption of hydrogen remains an uncertain low-carbon heating solution. The latest strategy details a cautious and experimental process in the transition to hydrogen heating.

As detailed in a previous blog, hydrogen has been viewed as a good low-carbon alternative as it can be transported through existing gas infrastructure- making it an ‘easy’ switch and attractive option. The strategy suggests that the extensive supply routes of natural gas for heat in homes and experience in production, distribution, storage, use and regulation of gas has the potential to support the transition to hydrogen- which follows a similar process. However, others have commented that the network will need upgrading as hydrogen, being a smaller molecule than natural gas, can escape out of smaller holes in the network.

At present, the UK produces only a small fraction of low-carbon hydrogen, with most using fossil fuels with no carbon capture in its production. For hydrogen to become a viable alternative for low carbon heating, further evidence on the costs, benefits, safety, feasibility, air quality impacts and consumer experience of using low carbon hydrogen for heating relative to other more established heat decarbonisation technologies is needed.

Key policies relating to heat in buildings:

“We will deliver hydrogen for heat trials (neighbourhood by 2023, village by 2025 and potential pilot town by 2030), with a view to inform our 2026 strategic decision point on the future of hydrogen for heat.”

“We aim to consult later this year (2021) on the case for enabling, or requiring, new natural gas boilers to be easily convertible to use hydrogen (‘hydrogen-ready’) by 2026.”

A number of trials will begin to test how well hydrogen can be delivered to homes, villages and towns. It is hoped the trials will inform and provide evidence on any practical, logistical and technical issues involved when converting buildings and appliances. In addition, it is hoped feedback will be given on how residents and consumers experience the installation of hydrogen, the performance of the gas networks using hydrogen, and the skills and training necessary for the conversion and the development of a supply chain.

Hydrogen blending into the gas network is another potential solution. Trials of 20 % hydrogen and natural gas blending are soon expected in 650 homes across Winlaton, north-east of England. Other trials are expected to use 100% electrolytic hydrogen production to supply 300 homes to demonstrate hydrogen for domestic heating in the UK.

However, there are problems with trials only now beginning. Housing associations, local authorities, developers, etc., are already feeling pressures to reach net zero commitments and decarbonise their stocks. There is a concern that, by only having confirmation by 2026, there will be huge delays with low-carbon transitions. It is probable that they will adopt other low-carbon heating technologies in order to meet net zero commitments and not fall behind other organisations.

UK Government recognises the complexity of heating decarbonisation and there is still a degree of uncertainty over the best route.

Contact us if you would like to discuss your decarbonisation plans.

[1] UK Hydrogen Strategy


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