An all party parliamentary group debate has discussed the case for whether there is a need to prioritise using hydrogen for harder to decarbonise industrial needs over domestic heat

The UK Green Party argues there shouldn’t be a role for the direct use of hydrogen in domestic heating as a means to decarbonise homes.

Baroness Natalie Bennett, who represents the part in the House of Lords, told a debate around the potential role for hydrogen in a net zero economy that that any supply of the gas produced from renewable sources should be prioritised for harder to decarbonise industrial sectors.  Notable examples of these harder to abate sectors given during the debate, which was hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen, include transportation and the production of steel.

The publication earlier this month of the government’s Energy Security Strategy committed to double planned domestic hydrogen production in the country by 2030 to 10GW. At least, half of this production capacity was expected to be sourced from renewable sources such as wind energy.

The other capacity is expected to come from ‘blue hydrogen’, a supply of the gas that is reliant on fossil fuels for its production.  However, the aim is to then capture the resulting carbon emissions that can be stored rather than entering the atmosphere. However, the government has said it does not expect to make a decision on whether it expects to use hydrogen for the purposes of heating homes until 2026 to allow for ongoing industry research into the gas and its production.

Baroness Bennett said the Green Party was highly critical of the argument for using blue hydrogen for any purposes due to its continued reliance on fossil fuel use for production.  Although hydrogen creates zero carbon at the point of use – for instance in boilers purpose built for the gas – it presently does rely on fossil fuels to produce at scale such as through steam methane reformation.

Baroness Bennett said that other options for decarbonising heat should be considered over domestic use.

She added, “Even when it comes to green hydrogen, the green party doesn’t believe that this has any place in home heating”.

“It needs to be used as storage, obviously for renewable energy. But in terms of home heating, what we’re looking at is that hydrogen will be five times more expensive than natural gas prices and up to seven times less efficient than using renewable energy to power a heat pump.”

Another primary concern held by the Green Party about hydrogen was the predicted £22bn cost needed to build the hydrogen infrastructure to support supply and production of the has at scale.  This was predicted to relate to a taxpayer investment of £3,000 per household, the party estimated.

Baroness Bennett argued that investment into solutions such as carbon capture and storage technologies for the production of blue hydrogen could be better be invested directly into renewable power generation and resilience.

She said, “Why not actually go the renewables route, the energy conservation route. What we know we need, that we can deliver now. This is by far the cheapest option and then we can reserve the hydrogen as a storage mechanism and as a means to power and produce steel in those other industries for which there isn’t an alternative.”

Also speaking during the hydrogen debate was Jo Coleman, the UK energy transition manager with Shell.

Ms Coleman said that the improved energy efficiency of buildings remained a vital factor in ensuring the decarbonisation of homes.

She added, “The energy we don’t use is the still cheapest way of reducing energy consumption overall and our emissions.”

Ms Coleman also argued that it was important to stress that hydrogen should not be seen as an out and out replacement for natural gas, which has been the predominant form of heating UK buildings for decades.

She said, “It’s not a silver bullet, but is it an important tool in the toolkit and I think that is the way we have to see it. “

The electrification of heat was viewed by Ms Coleman, in line with the views of Baroness Bennett and the UK’s own Climate Change Committee ,as being the dominant means of heating homes in the national move to net zero carbon.

However, there were expected to be certain regions and property types that may benefit from using hydrogen in some form to provide lower carbon heat, Ms Coleman added.

She said, “We should be focusing on industry and heavy goods vehicles in the first instance, but I think hydrogen will potentially play a role in certain types of home.”

Scaling up

The event heard from some speakers about what they saw as the value of generating blue hydrogen as a means to create expertise and capacity for supplying the gas both as a means of heat and energy.

Ms Coleman said that the current means of producing green hydrogen via 10MW and 100MW electrolysers was operating at a very different magnitude to the higher scale production of blue hydrogen production at present.

Blue hydrogen was therefore seen by Shell as an important step in initially scaling up supply.

She said, “We can make blue hydrogen a low carbon solution, not zero carbon, we can make it very low carbon solution.”


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