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19 Oct 2023

Infrastructure Body says H2 not fit to heat buildings

Infrastructure Body says H2 not fit to heat buildings

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says that UK Government should back electrification as “the only viable option” for decarbonising building heating at scale. 

NIC Assessments are produced every five years and the latest Assessment suggests that as much as £35bn is needed annually between 2025 and 2050 for the Net Zero energy transition. These figures include scaling up renewable and nuclear generation; building electricity networks; decarbonizing heating; scaling batteries and other flexible sources of energy; and developing hydrogen networks.

A waste of hydrogen

Addressing the key challenge of Net Zero domestic heating, the NIC notes the Government has until 2026 to make a strategic decision on any role for hydrogen in replacing domestic gas, following local trials. The NIC’s latest Assessment should prompt an earlier decision against using hydrogen for building heat, on significant inefficiency and cost grounds.  It concludes there is no case for using hydrogen in heating domestic or other buildings. Regarding suggestions in some quarters that hydrogen could be blended into the domestic gas supply ECA’s Paul Reeve adds “going forward, the most sustainable hydrogen is green hydrogen, produced by renewable electricity. However, green hydrogen is a precious energy resource - the idea of diluting this resource into the gas supply is just ridiculous.”

The NIC states that better uses of hydrogen would be for heavy industry and for a “new strategic energy reserve” along with a staggering 30TWh of long-term flexibility to replace ‘gas peakers’ and provided by hydrogen/gas power stations with CCS, by 2035. 

Heat pumps the way forward

By way of alternative action to decarbonize building heating, the NIC recommends the Government backs electric home heating. Specifically, it recommends fully subsidised heat pumps for one-third of homes, based on income, with others receiving a £7,000 grant to switch over. Subsidising domestic heat transition in this way, it says, would cost around £3.2bn per year to 2035. The NIC adds that electrified heating usually works best in energy-efficient buildings, calling on Government to increase investment in energy efficiency and low-carbon heating across social housing and the public sector, also up to £3.2bn a year through to 2035.

Online summary of NIA 2 - NIC

You can read about ECA’s work to support the UK’s electrification here

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