Bavarian Economics and Energy Minister Hubert Aiwanger is convinced that hydrogen will play a central role in the heat transition. He recently visited the town of Hohenwart to learn about the successful start of the H2Direkt hydrogen pilot project.
In the research project, ten private households and one commercial business have been using green hydrogen as a climate-friendly alternative to fossil natural gas in boilers for several days. The energy source is supplied via the converted natural gas network.
Aiwanger commented that only a few structural measures were necessary to convert the existing gas network section to pure hydrogen. He also noted that replacing the gas heaters with state-of-the-art hydrogen condensing boilers can be completed in just a few hours and with a purchase cost of a few thousand euros.
He added that the field test shows that heating with hydrogen is safe and possible at a manageable cost. He argued that what works for ten houses will also work for 10,000 houses.
The State Minister is critical of the federal government’s ideological predetermination of the heat pump. He said that the heat pump has advantages in new buildings or well-renovated houses, but it is not, as the federal government suggests, the panacea for the heat transition.
He added that we can’t lie to ourselves. When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow in winter, the electricity mix for the heat pump comes from coal and gas.
That’s why, for him, green hydrogen in boilers is the obvious solution to decarbonize the housing stock in Germany, half of which is still connected to the natural gas network. Especially in large cities, where local conditions often make the installation of heat pumps even more difficult.
As we see in Hohenwart, it is technically easily possible to convert the existing natural gas infrastructure in the ground and in the houses to 100 percent hydrogen. We have the network and the technology. This is the anti-Habeck solution. Instead of heat pumps for everyone, hydrogen for many, one part biomass and one part heat pump, emphasized Aiwanger.
As part of the H2Direkt research project, ten private households and one commercial customer in the market town of Hohenwart were switched from natural gas to green hydrogen starting in the 2023/2024 heating season. Space heat and hot water are generated in a CO2-neutral manner. A trailer station and a feed-in system were set up to provide supplies. The hydrogen is delivered by truck. The project by Thüga and Energie Südbayern (ESB) together with Energienetze Bayern is initially expected to last 18 months.
If hydrogen heating proves to be a viable solution, it could have a significant impact on the heat transition in Germany. Hydrogen could be used to decarbonize the country’s housing stock, which is currently heavily reliant on fossil natural gas.
Hydrogen heating could also help to reduce Germany’s reliance on imported energy. The country is currently a major importer of natural gas, and this reliance has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.