The use of hydrogen as a fuel for heating in homes took a step forward yesterday (18 November 2020) with the UK government’s announcement of extra funds to boost low carbon hydrogen. The overview was provided in a policy paper, “The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”.
By 2023, it is anticipated that upto 20% blending of hydrogen will be allowed into the gas distribution grid (from a maximum of 0.1% today) and by 2025 a large village hydrogen heating trial will be supported. This would likely involve a switch to 100% hydrogen in a small section of the gas grid, with the use of hydrogen gas boilers. The plans indicate an entire town could be switched to hydrogen in the same way by 2030, in echoes of the approach used in the 1960/70s when the switch from coal gas to natural gas was made.
Also anticipated by 2025 is the installation of 1GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity. Some of this will be produced using electrolysers to convert water to green hydrogen. ITM Power will build the electrolysers which could be connected to offshore wind electricity generation to produce zero carbon hydrogen fuel. The remainder could be produced using natural gas and Carbon Capture Usage & Storage (CCUS) with captured carbon dioxide stored under the sea bed in the North Sea.
The plan is to have 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
In anticipation of this development, boiler manufacturers have been developing hydrogen ready gas boilers. The intention is that new boilers would be manufactured that could work with both the existing natural gas network and then easily switched over to a future hydrogen gas distribution system.
It remains to be seen how this drive for hydrogen as a domestic fuel finds its way into a revised Future Homes Standard (FHS) originally intended for introduction in 2025. A response from BEIS is awaited to the 2019 consultation on the initial draft of the FHS, which referred to banning gas connections in new build housing from 2025. As a minor aside, the first online version of the Ten Point Plan referred to bringing forward the introduction of FHS to 2023. This reference mysteriously disappeared within 30 minutes, presumably as the clash between hydrogen boilers and banning gas connections was identified. It was replaced by the statement that the government will “seek to implement the Future Home Standard in the shortest possible timeline, and consult shortly on increased standards for non-domestic buildings“.
The author’s view is that the Future Homes Standard will be amended to allow hydrogen ready boilers to be installed in new build homes, as an alternative to heat pumps.
- The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (2020). HM Government. Available at: 10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf [Accessed 18 November 2020]