Gas grid future: Climate Change Committee chief calls for “proper” hydrogen trials

Bell: Work out if hydrogen is viable in order to determine low carbon heat mix
Bell: Work out if hydrogen is viable in order to determine low carbon heat mix

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called for “proper and effective low carbon hydrogen trials” so that the UK can make informed technology decisions in the mid 2020s to hit 2050 decarbonisation targets.

CEO Matthew Bell also suggested energy efficiency must be central to decision-making to maximise outcomes and that funding for heat pumps must be more effectively targeted.

Bell said that while the blend of low carbon heat technologies – as well as gas – required to decarbonise the economy by 80% on 1990 levels was currently unknown, technology decisions would have to be made within the next decade to stand a chance of hitting 2050 targets.

“There will be an important decision in the mid 2020s about the importance of low carbon hydrogen, because it will potentially create a different role for other technologies such as heat pumps,” said Bell. “If we know we have to make that decision in mid 2020s, the question is what needs to be done between now and then both to reduce emissions over next decade, but also prepare ourselves for the decision that needs to be made.”

Implementing “proper and effective trials for low carbon hydrogen [and] ramping up at a reasonable rate will allow us to put in place the framework, skills, training, consumer understanding and to join up energy efficiency and low carbon heat so that we will be in a place to know how to push forward in a concrete way in the mid 2020s”, Bell told the ADE’s heat conference.

He suggested that new build homes and those off the gas grid would be prime candidates for rolling out hydrogen trials in the shorter term, as well as installing more proven technology such as heat pumps. The CCC’s scenario modelling suggests around 200,000 heat pumps will be installed a year by 2020. That compares to around 20,000 annual installs today.

Bell said that while government funding for heat pumps was “just about enough to get us through to 2020”, the available funding needed to be used “effectively” to target new builds and off grid homes “before we start to think about [allocating] new money”.

CCC scenarios suggest that one in seven homes and “half of public and commercial buildings will be heated by some form of low carbon heat by the time we get into the 2030s”, said Bell.

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