The United Kingdom should eliminate the pursuit of hydrogen heating to shift its focus towards decarbonizing heat with electric heat pumps, according to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the government’s independent advisors on infrastructure.
The NIC’s new five-yearly report revealed that integrating hydrogen heating into the UK’s energy system would increase system costs by 18% to £2.54 trillion over 25 years. The report argued that hydrogen heating was not economically viable and highlighted that even a small amount of hydrogen heating would raise system costs by 13%. Hydrogen heating was also criticized for its environmental impacts, including leakage of hydrogen and emissions of nitrogen oxides.
The NIC’s analysis showed that the costs of producing hydrogen outweighed the capital costs of installing heat pumps, indicating that the shift to electric heat pumps is more financially sound. Furthermore, the NIC expressed doubts about the UK’s capacity to deliver hydrogen heating and pointed out coordination challenges in switching properties from natural gas to hydrogen heating simultaneously.
The UK government has postponed a decision on whether to support hydrogen heating until 2026, and the NIC recommended focusing on decarbonizing heat through electricity or heat networks, proposing an increase in subsidies for heat pumps. The report also called for the development of core networks for transporting and storing hydrogen and carbon dioxide by 2035, aiming to ensure electricity system resilience during cold winters with low wind supply.
Additionally, the NIC recommended the development of hydrogen-fueled power stations to replace gas-fired power stations, with the aim of generating up to 30TWh of long-term flexible energy by 2035, supported by subsidies.