The UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) has initiated a critical consultation regarding the potential use of hydrogen blends of up to 20% within gas distribution networks.
While the primary strategic goal of blending isn’t centered on heat decarbonization, it aims to stimulate investment in hydrogen production and storage by providing certainty about demand.
According to the consultation documents, blending could play a significant role as a strategic enabler for certain electrolytic hydrogen projects, supporting the broader energy system. However, it’s clear that exceeding a 20% blend would necessitate substantial infrastructure changes, from pipelines to appliances, to ensure safety and efficiency.
The government’s approach emphasizes not allowing hydrogen for home heating to outcompete its supply to other essential sectors that need it for decarbonization. It recognizes that the most efficient uses of low-carbon hydrogen, in terms of cost and carbon benefits, are likely to be in industrial applications, including manufacturing and shipping.
This perspective aligns with recommendations from various quarters, including MPs on the Science and Technology Committee, think-tanks like E3G, and energy sector bodies such as IRENA. With energy prices in focus due to an ongoing crisis, DESNZ has dropped plans for a hydrogen levy on domestic energy bills, and Energy Efficiency Minister Lord Callanan has suggested that hydrogen blending could help stabilize energy costs for households and businesses.
Should the UK government proceed with hydrogen blending, it plans to create a financial framework modeled after the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction scheme. This framework, named the Hydrogen Production Business Model (HPBM), aims to simplify administrative processes for producers and authorities.
The government has set a timeline to make a decision on hydrogen’s role in building heating in 2026, following a series of real-world trials. While some challenges and opposition have arisen, the government remains committed to exploring hydrogen’s potential in achieving its net-zero emissions goals. The ongoing consultation will be instrumental in shaping the UK’s hydrogen strategy.