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Hydrogen Heating

Six months before the pandemic, the UK government set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK economy by 2050: a tough stretch target. Up to a third of the UK's greenhouse emissions come from central heating. Some consider hydrogen heating as a silver bullet. Is this possible?

Hydrogen heating

The CO2 Giant

Heating our homes uses about 10 times the amount of CO2 created by the aviation industry. Around 85% of homes use gas-fired central heating, and a large proportion of cooking is gas.

3 Heating Camps

  1. The hydrogen camp sees it being produced in large volumes from natural gas. A by-product is carbon dioxide and must be used or safely stored. The iron mains gas pipes will need to be replaced with hydrogen-safe polyethylene pipes. Existing gas boilers will need to be replaced but hydrogen boilers have a working life of 15 years, so these could be phased in.
  2. The electric heat pump camp sees electricity extracting heat from either the air or the ground. An air source heat pump works like a fridge but instead of sucking heat out, it pulls heat out of the air and channels it into the home to heat the radiators and hot water.
  3. The district heating camp sees water being heated at a central facility using waste heat from industry or green sources such as solar power. The hot water is then delivered to many homes simultaneously through a network of heavily insulated underground pipes.

Advantages of hydrogen heating

  • It is a renewable energy source which cannot run out. 
  • It is a clean energy source with no harmful by products released into the atmosphere.
  • Hydrogen energy is not toxic to health.
  • It is 3 times more powerful than most fossil-based fuels, so less hydrogen is required to perform the same tasks.

Our future energy landscape is difficult to navigate, as all options to decarbonise our heating systems will require significant disruption and costs. All three camps above significantly reduce the carbon footprint of home heating but require extensive work to roll them out on a national scale. The government has less than 29 years to deliberate as to the best heating source, as the countdown clock continues ticking.

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Date: 26 April 2021 by max robinson