Why Employing Hydrogen Home Heating Is Unlikely
While climate sceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg hopes to use hydrogen for heating homes, it’s unlikely to be suitable, as recent studies and scientific reviews have concluded. Burning hydrogen doesn’t produce CO₂, like natural gas does, but there are other drawbacks that prove it unsuitable.
Rees-Mogg believes hydrogen can be used to store excess power generated from renewable sources and sent to homes with some adjustments. While some scientists agree with this approach, those in charge of the scientific reviews all say the same thing: heating with hydrogen is inefficient and more expensive than the alternatives.
Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, which converts renewable energy into hydrogen and water. The hydrogen is then stored in tanks for later use and supplied to homes when it is needed. The only problem with this is how energy intensive it is. While it does provide a means of storing energy, it uses more power than simply using cheap to run heat pumps.
Most of the world’s hydrogen is manufactured using fossil fuels. This is known as grey hydrogen and is more polluting than simply using methane gas as is. For the process to be considered green, electricity from renewable resources needs to electrolyse water, which splits it into oxygen and hydrogen. However, going about it this way is inefficient, even more so than just using the electricity to directly heat a home via a heat pump.
The process of using green hydrogen to heat homes would use around six times more electricity than using heat pumps alone. The report concludes that wasting any more time investigating the use of hydrogen will delay the implementation of readily available alternatives, which is pertinent considering the government is not making a decision on this until 2026.
Some want to swap typical gas with hydrogen, which would avoid households having to replace gas boilers with heat pumps. However, reviews have stated that hydrogen is unlikely to play a major role for home heating, either as a replacement or as a blend with natural gas, because of too many technical difficulties. While green hydrogen sounds attractive at first glance, it’s a lot less efficient and more expensive than low carbon alternatives, even quoted as being twice as expensive as gas for home heating.
It may seem easy, but the reality of it means increased costs. Pipework would need to be altered in homes, which won’t come cheap, and energy storage systems will need to be created, as well as the electrolysis plants.
In the context of the climate crisis, policymakers are causing delays by trying to seek alternative options, but hydrogen isn’t the solution. District heating, heat pumps and solar thermal power are the way forward and we need to start implementing them on a large scale.
While hydrogen would be useful for decarbonising heavy industry and shipping, it’s no good for households, so it can still play a part in helping us go green. For these sectors, it needs to be generated using renewable energy rather than from fossil fuels, as most hydrogen is at the moment.