Heat pumps handed major boost as MPs tear apart UK’s ‘alternative gas’ boiler strategy | Science | News
A Committee of MPs has torn apart the Government plans to heat households with hydrogen boilers, in a major boost to heat pump technology. Over the past year, the UK has been to end its reliance on natural gas imports by phasing them out with renewable energy solutions. Under current plans, the Government will slap down a gas and oil boiler ban in newbuild homes from 2025. For other homes, new gas boilers will be illegal to install from 2035. In an effort to figure out how to heat homes without gas, Britons are left with two alternatives- heat pumps, which use electricity and are significantly more energy efficient, and hydrogen-ready boilers, which have been tipped to be a future replacement for natural gas.
Last week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that it is consulting on a proposal for all new domestic-scale gas boilers sold from 2026 to be capable of being powered by hydrogen.
Proponents of green hydrogen as an energy source argue that this “super fuel” could one day be piped into the UK’s gas network, and would flow into boilers, ensuring that households would not have to pay extra for alternative heating sources like heat pumps.
However, MPs on the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee slammed this suggestion for being unrealistic, warning that hydrogen is “not a panacea” for cutting carbon emissions.
In their summary, they said: “It would be unwise to assume that hydrogen can make a very large contribution to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term.”
They warned that to use hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels, the UK’s entire energy system would require a “significant investment” in the networks and infrastructure needed to distribute it around the country.
One example given was that if hydrogen were to completely or substantially replace gas in domestic heating systems, a “massive and costly programme” of replacing boilers, meters and network infrastructure would likely be required.
While the authors warned that “it seems likely that any future use of hydrogen will be limited rather than universal”, they noted that hydrogen could have some suitable applications.
These include industries that are harder to electrify, such as some parts of the rail network; in uses that do not require the creation of an extensive refuelling network—such as local bus services operating out of a fixed number of depots.
READ MORE: Brits mull over heat pumps or hydrogen for future of UK heating
After highlighting some more uses in the energy storage and industrial sectors, the MPs said: “This limited—rather than universal—use of hydrogen should inform Government decisions.
“For example, we disagree with the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that the Government should mandate new domestic boilers to be hydrogen-ready from 2025.
“In the words of one of the witnesses to our inquiry, hydrogen is likely to be a ‘big niche’ where it will play a major role in certain sectors of the economy, and be a ‘huge growth story’ over the next 30 years, but ‘it will not be everything’.”
Commenting on the Committee’s report, Gareth Redmond-King, Head of the International Programme at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) hailed heat pumps as the future of heating homes in the UK.
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He said: “Green hydrogen has a big role to play in our net zero future for stuff with no easy alternatives, like industry, heavy vehicles, and shipping. Less expensive, more efficient clean solutions already exist for things like heating our homes.
“If we want to cut emissions and bills quickly, evidence points to heat pumps – three to five times more efficient than burning gas, without producing air pollution. Not to mention getting our boilers ready for a gas that in all likelihood won’t even be available during most boilers’ lifetime.”
The Telegraph reported a Government spokesman saying: “A low carbon hydrogen sector here in the UK will be critical to delivering energy security, economic growth, and our net zero ambitions.
“We expect to have up to two gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen projects in construction or operation by 2025. Hydrogen could play an important role in helping decarbonising heat in buildings, but the Government has been clear that a decision on this will not be made until 2026, allowing for full consideration of relevant evidence.”