The energy landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, driven by the urgent need to address climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. One critical aspect of this transformation is the heating of single- and multi-family homes, traditionally powered by fossil natural gas. As we bid farewell to the era of carbon-intensive energy, the question arises: Can green hydrogen become a sustainable alternative for residential heating? According to the German Gas and Water Association (DVGW), the answer is a resounding “yes.”
The DVGW, representing a significant number of natural gas network operators, believes that green hydrogen holds great potential in reshaping the way we heat our homes. To substantiate their claim, the association commissioned a study conducted by Frontier Economics.
According to the study’s findings, by 2035, end customers could expect green hydrogen to cost between 12 and 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. In the same year, the price for natural gas, when considering rising CO2 prices, would range between 9 and 11 cents. Biomethane, a renewable gas, would be priced around 10 to 13 cents, depending on the biomass source used for its production. To provide context, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) reported that the average gas price in July was 14.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for single-family homes and 14.5 cents for multi-family homes.
DVGW’s CEO, Gerald Linke, emphasized the study’s importance, stating that “the results of the study are a strong indicator that hydrogen can also be competitive in the heating sector in the future.” Moreover, he pointed out that studies have already confirmed the viability of using the existing gas network for hydrogen transportation.
The report suggests that post-2035, hydrogen’s end-customer prices could decrease, converging with those of natural gas. A key factor contributing to this shift is the expected reduction in hydrogen production costs coupled with escalating CO2 prices within emissions trading. By 2045, hydrogen’s procurement costs may further decline, reaching a range of 11 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour. This aligns with the Building Energy Act’s mandate that, from 2045 onward, natural gas cannot be used for heating purposes, ushering in a new era of climate-neutral heating.
While the DVGW envisions a promising future for hydrogen in heating, not everyone shares the same enthusiasm. Environmental organization Greenpeace offers a contrasting perspective. They argue against the use of hydrogen for residential heating, citing concerns about energy efficiency during hydrogen production.
According to Greenpeace, the losses incurred during hydrogen production are significant, rendering it an expensive and valuable resource. They assert that the energy losses make hydrogen an inefficient choice for heating, especially when alternatives like green hydrogen or synthetic methane, produced from green hydrogen, offer similar applications to natural gas. However, Greenpeace contends that the energy lost during conversion makes these alternatives impractical for long-term heating solutions. They require substantial amounts of renewable electricity and space, making them unsustainable options.
In the view of Greenpeace, dedicating valuable renewable resources to heating buildings would be a poor allocation of resources. They highlight the importance of considering the overall efficiency and sustainability of energy solutions in the broader context of the energy transition.
The debate over whether green hydrogen can effectively replace natural gas for residential heating is just beginning. As technologies evolve, costs change, and environmental considerations take center stage, the answer may become clearer. It is undeniable that our approach to heating will evolve in the coming decades, and hydrogen, with its potential for low carbon emissions, may play a significant role. However, ensuring a sustainable and cost-effective transition will be key in reshaping our homes’ heating systems for a greener future.