Boosting Britain’s nascent hydrogen economy by pumping the gas in blends over established grids will impose unfair costs on businesses & households, campaigners including supplier Octopus Energy & green charities say.

In a letter to energy secretary Grant Shapps, more than 20 organisations including the Heat Pump Federation, the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, Greenpeace & Fuel Poverty Action rebut proposals made by Jane Toogood, the government’s hydrogen champion, in her recent review.

Mixing electrolysed hydrogen into existing gas supplies will, the letter says, ensure consumers will bear the costs of higher energy bills and costs of conversion – on top of the proposed “hydrogen levy” set out in the Energy Bill.

Hydrogen has a lower per unit energy content than natural gas, the campaigners point out, meaning a 20% mix has only 86% of the heat output of natural gas.

Adding to already fierce cost-of-living pressures, the cost of equivalent heat will thus rise by at least 16%, thanks to the more expensive challenger gas, says the letter. Savings in greenhouse gas emissions will be nowhere near 20%, but closer to 7%, they calculate.

The campaigners point to one EU study which claims gas blended into the 27’s grids could raise household gas costs by 16% and to heavy industrial users by 43%.

Carried on the E3G think tank’s website, the letter questions some of Toogood’s evidence, and implies none exists for her claim that hydrogen heat pathways could in some circumstances be cheaper than electrification or conventional heating.

Among Toogood’s recommendations last month to ministers were:

  • Tasking a future replacement for National Grid ESO to embrace hydrogen distribution
  • Removing planning & investment barriers to deliver industrial-scale projects in hydrogen electrolysis & carbon-capture & storage
  • Create a road map in quest of cost savings of up to £ 38 billion to industry spurred by the green gas

But the trade bodies’ representatives question her work, not least how Toogood’s measures would effect government plans to replace 600,000 domestic boilers with heat pumps by 2027.

Ministers should reject Toogood’s recommendation to create a loophole for low carbon heating under the proposed market-based mechanism, with “hydrogen ready boilers excluded from these market share calculations”.

“Since the report itself recognises that hydrogen ready boilers are unlikely to run fully on hydrogen for decades to come”, the letter specifies, “this recommendation will enable ‘greenwashing’ for fossil fuel boilers and prolong the impacts of heating on carbon emissions and air quality”.

The campaigners also notes Toogood’s estimate of hydrogen accounting for 40% of all heating by 2050 is much higher than predictions from Shell or from the Committee on Climate Change.

“A high hydrogen for heating scenario does not represent a strategic use of a limited resource, and could detract from other sectors where hydrogen could play a vital role in meeting net zero, such as power, steel and aviation”, the campaigners tell Shapps.


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