When it comes to decarbonizing domestic heating, hydrogen is inferior to alternatives like solar power in every way: it’s less economical, less efficient, more resource-intensive and has a larger environmental impact. This is the finding of a review that analyzed 32 independent studies.
Provision of heating for domestic, industrial and other applications accounts for around 50% of the total energy consumption worldwide. 60% of this demand is met by fossil fuels. Zero-CO2 or green hydrogen – hydrogen produced without CO2 emissions – has been hailed as a replacement for natural gas in this sector. Governments have launched national hydrogen strategies to bring more gas into domestic heating. In late 2021, the UK demonstrated that it could safely mix 20% hydrogen with methane and feed it into the grid. The project was deemed a success, and its second stagecompleted June 2022, awaiting evaluation.
But feeding hydrogen into the grid isn’t the best way to decarbonize home heating, writes Jan Rosenow Director for European programs at the non-governmental Regulatory Assistance Project. He analyzed 32 independent studies – those not conducted by or on behalf of the energy industry – and found no evidence of widespread use of hydrogen for heating.
Overall, around five times more electricity is required to heat a house with hydrogen than with a single heat pump or via a district heating network operated by a heat pump. Hydrogen has higher energy system costs than heat pumps or solar energy because it requires a lot of electricity to produce. It is also likely to be more expensive for consumers. Hydrogen requires a large, complex and resource-intensive supply infrastructure, increasing its environmental impact.
Rosenow points out that there are other more important uses for green hydrogen, including as a feedstock chemical and for long-term energy storage — applications for which there are few other alternatives to decarbonization. He warns policymakers to look past the hype and “carefully review existing research before allocating significant public funding to hydrogen heating”.