There’s a Cleaner Way to Heat Your Home, and It’s Not Hydrogen

Hydrogen for Home Heating? The Cleaner Way to Heat Your Home Lies Elsewhere

Hydrogen has gained a reputation as a clean fuel source due to its lack of carbon dioxide emissions when burned for energy. However, the use of hydrogen has been limited, with the UK proposing to use only 2% to 5% of hydrogen in pipelines by 2025. While this is a step toward decarbonizing natural gas, it will not significantly reduce emissions. Instead, the UK must prioritize which areas should be powered by 100% hydrogen and those that should not, such as our homes.

A hydrogen backbone would repurpose up to 2,000 kilometers of gas pipelines to transport clean hydrogen to industrial clusters across the country. Hydrogen comes in a variety of colors depending on how it’s produced, and the best are colorful — green is from renewable energy, pink from nuclear energy, blue from natural gas with carbon capture. Most of the UK’s hydrogen production right now is actually gray, produced using natural gas without carbon capture, but there is scope for cleaner stuff.

Although the idea of using hydrogen for heating is being trialed in the UK, it is not a sensible option for the long term. A recent study found that using hydrogen for heating could nearly double the cost of heating a home by the end of the decade compared with natural gas. Instead, the UK should focus on speeding up the deployment of heat pumps for households.

Heat pumps are a more efficient and economic alternative to hydrogen. Converting to green hydrogen, which will require every distribution pipe to be refurbished, every gas-burning appliance to be upgraded and rigorous safety checks to be made, is also an eye-wateringly expensive undertaking. Converting every gas-heated home in the UK to hydrogen could cost £190 billion or more, according to Michael Liebreich, founder of BloombergNEF.

The UK’s hydrogen backbone is a promising step in the right direction for cleaner energy, but it must be utilized appropriately. Focusing on powering heavy industry, shipping, and aviation with hydrogen while deploying heat pumps for households would be a more sensible and efficient approach.