‘It’s time to stop the fight’ | 32 independent studies denounce the widespread use of hydrogen for heating

Hydrogen in premises and hot water heating will be more expensive and less efficient than other clean alternatives in almost all circumstances, according to a review of 32 independent studies on the subject, leading to calls promoters to “stop the fight” for hydrogen heating.

Energy researcher Jan Rosenow’s peer review report, published in the Joule scientific journal today, is expanding a “study of studies” of 18 people it compiled earlier this year and decisively confirms the findings of the original list.

The review comes as Cornwall Insight energy analysts warn in a separate analysis that heating with hydrogen could nearly double the cost of heating a home property by the end of the decade, compared to fossil gas.

The cost of using 100% green hydrogen fueled by a new offshore wind farm in a UK home would drive prices up 94.7% in 2030 over fossil gas, before dropping to a premium of 66.3 %, calculated Cornwall Insight.

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None of the 32 independent studies found hydrogen to be a cost-effective decarbonization solution for heating compared to heat pumps, solar thermal or district heating, either in terms of energy system costs or for consumers.

Echoing the previous analysis, Rosenow, who leads the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) sustainability think tank, reiterated that the relative inefficiencies of electrolysis and average boiler and the relative efficiency of heat pumps result in a hydrogen boiler requiring five times more energy. resources of an aerothermal heat pump.

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Electrolyzers absorb about 20% of the electricity input when converting to hydrogen, while boilers lose another 15% when converting to heat. Hydrogen also contains about three times less energy by volume than natural gas, so larger amounts are needed to produce the same amount of heat. Additionally, due to the smaller molecules, approximately three times more energy would also be required to pump hydrogen into homes and businesses compared to natural gas, and energy is also required to compress H2which further reduces the round-trip efficiency.

Any cost savings realized by green hydrogen producers from cheaper renewable electricity will be more than offset by directly electrified alternatives, the report notes.

And the cost profile is not improving for blue hydrogen, according to Cornwall Insight. The premium on blue hydrogen made from fossil gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) would peak at 78.7% in 2039 – nearly a decade later than offshore wind-powered green hydrogen – at that time. there it would become more expensive than the green H.2.

Moreover, the only study in the Joule review which examined the life cycle environmental impact of hydrogen boilers compared to other alternatives found that H2 burners have the highest environmental impacts in all cases.

“Hydrogen for heating requires more energy supply infrastructure, uses more resources and requires more land,” the peer-reviewed report notes, adding: “The use of hydrogen for heating domestic is less economical, less efficient, more resource-intensive and associated with greater environmental impacts.”

However, the review acknowledged some evidence supporting the use of hydrogen heating in some specific circumstances. In areas where the cost of grid upgrades is particularly high, for example, a “Hybrid Hydrogen Heat Pump” could save energy at peak times by burning hydrogen for heat.

And where extensive hydrogen infrastructure is already in place to serve industry, H2 heating could prove viable, the report said, but cautioned that there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion one way or the other.

“Unanimous”

The report was well received by Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich, who last week —in a characteristic twist – tweeted that hydrogen heating would “not be a thing”.

“There is no serious analysis showing that hydrogen plays more than a marginal role in the future of space heating,” he said. “We need to get Europe’s heating systems off natural gas, and we need to do it now. It’s time to stop the fight: the judges are unanimous and the winners are district heating, heat pumps and electrification.

Rosenow called on governments to consider the evidence before committing public funds to hydrogen heating and instead focus on decarbonizing the existing hydrogen industry.

“Using hydrogen for heating may seem appealing at first glance,” he said. “However, all independent research on this subject comes to the same conclusion: heating with hydrogen is much less efficient and more expensive than alternatives such as heat pumps, district heating and solar thermal.”

He added: “Rather than hoping that hydrogen can eventually replace the fossil gas used to heat our buildings, we should focus on accelerating the deployment of energy efficiency and heat pumps, technologies consistently identified as critical to reducing carbon emissions from buildings.”

deaf ears

This all seems to be falling on deaf ears in the UK, which is throwing its weight behind hydrogen heating and blue hydrogen (made with fossil gas and carbon capture and storage) – at least partly due to the lobbying efforts of local gas distributors such as Cadent and SGN.

The government, which recently appointed a new prime minister, Liz Truss, has committed to expedite the delivery of the Hynet and East Coast Cluster blue H2 projects in its emergency budget on Friday.

And new energy secretary and fossil fuel enthusiast Jacob Rees-Mogg is advocating for a reduction in wind and solar energy to be used to make hydrogen for heating.

“I think hydrogen is ultimately the silver bullet,” he told parliament last week. “We’re creating it from renewable sources, because we have wind power when people aren’t tapping into the electrical system; we use it as an efficient battery and it can then, with a few adjustments, be taken to people’s homes to heat them during the winter.

The economic case for reduced use of wind and solar to power electrolyzers is slim at best. The low utilization rate — estimated around 10% according to the International Renewable Energies Agency — would not produce enough hydrogen to make the investment of an H2 producer.

For the UK, which has more installed wind capacity than solar, the level of reduction drops to just over 3% on average, and Cornwall Insight noted that powering electrolyzers with reduced renewable energy would not produce enough H2 decarbonize the country’s heating.

According to the MCS Charitable Foundation, which commissioned the heating report from Cornwall Insight, 120 paid hydrogen lobbyists currently operate in the UK Parliament.

This report follows a similar finding by campaign group Global Witness, which found the use of hydrogen in heating would double European energy bills by 2050.

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