Questions raised about use of hydrogen in home heating

The hydrogen industry has been accused of miscommunicating basic facts on hydrogen’s potential for home heating, during the Competition and Markets Authority’s review of greenwashing in the heating sector.

In evidence submitted to the CMA, independent renewable energy charity MCS Charitable Foundation said that consumers are not receiving crucial information on the safety, disruption or cost of hydrogen heating technologies.

The Foundation claims that gas companies have an interest in promoting the roll-out of hydrogen boilers as a replacement for natural gas, stating that these and other companies have claimed that hydrogen can help reduce carbon emissions from the UK’s housing stock.

A recently-launched website, paid for by hydrogen industry companies, claims to provide information to consumers about hydrogen boilers. It states that installing a hydrogen boiler “will be just like installing a current gas boiler”.

Yet MCS Charitable Foundation has compiled evidence demonstrating that switching homes from gas to hydrogen will undoubtedly result in physical disruption to a property. For example, research commissioned by the government shows that all pipework would need to be surveyed and some will need to be replaced due to the risk of hydrogen leaking, which in turn could lead to explosions.

In addition, hydrogen promotional material implies that hydrogen would cost “around the same price as natural gas before the recent energy price crisis”.  But research by energy analysts Cornwall Insight shows that, even taking into account falls in price as hydrogen technology develops, the production costs of hydrogen will remain 70-90% higher than gas.

More independent research also shows that fuel bills would double or even triple in hydrogen-based heating systems, and that hydrogen is simply not a viable option for home heating.

Dr Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, research and campaigns manager at MCS Charitable Foundation, said: “The CMA is right to have concerns about greenwashing in relation to hydrogen boilers. The evidence is clear that using hydrogen for heating will mean higher fuel bills. Burning hydrogen also releases NOx greenhouse gases, a fact that seems to be routinely miscommunicated by hydrogen lobbyists.

“The hydrogen lobby needs to come clean about the risks that hydrogen boilers pose for consumers’ fuel bills and for net zero. While hydrogen has its place in a net zero future, that place is not in the home.

“A much more effective and immediate alternative for getting fuel bills down and cutting carbon from our homes is for the Government to roll out a massive programme of insulating houses and installing heat pumps.”

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