UK Parliament: Hydrogen not feasible and affordable for mass usage

A UK Parliament research found that hydrogen is unlikely to be feasible and affordable for mass usage in heating homes or powering cars in the near future.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee found that the universe’s most plentiful element may remain “a big niche” fuel in certain sectors and applications due to financial, technological, and infrastructure issues, as well as the “unassailable” market lead of alternatives like electric cars.

The UK government requires all new boilers to be “hydrogen-ready” by 2026. The regulation followed several pronouncements regarding the gas’s potential in the zero-carbon economy.

“Versatile substitute for high-carbon fuels used today – helping to cut down emissions in important UK industrial sectors and delivering flexible energy for power, heat and transport,” the government’s Hydrogen Strategy stated in August 2021.

It was also included in former prime minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which promised up to £500 million ($609 million) for hydrogen investment and trialing homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking, starting with a Hydrogen Neighborhood in 2023, then a Hydrogen Village by 2025, and finally a Hydrogen Town with tens of thousands of homes by the end of the decade.

After hearing from industry experts, the Science and Technology Committee found hydrogen will play a “specific but restricted” role in decarbonizing areas that cannot be electrified and storing energy.

Hydrogen metering in homes was “missed,” and it was “unconvinced” hydrogen could heat homes by 2026. Ofgem couldn’t answer whether hydrogen-compatible smart meters existed.

Current production methods make hydrogen unsustainable as a green fuel. Most industrial hydrogen gas is extracted from natural gas, which takes energy, mainly from fossil fuels, and emits greenhouse gasses. Electrolyzing hydrogen from water using renewable energy is intriguing, but it has yet to be scaled.

“A huge and costly programme of upgrading boilers, meters and network equipment will likely be necessary” if hydrogen replaced gas in household heating systems, the paper stated.

Hydrogen may be useful in hard-to-electrify applications like rail. Local bus services with a set number of depots may also benefit.

Hydrogen investment might assist shipping, aviation, energy storage, and energy-intensive industries including steel, glass, and mineral processing, the survey found.