UK shelves plan for country’s biggest hydrogen home heating trial

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The UK government has shelved plans for Britain’s largest trial using hydrogen to heat people’s homes, in the latest blow to prospects for using the gas in the shift to net zero.   

Ministers said they were stopping preparatory work on a project to heat up to 10,000 homes with hydrogen instead of fossil fuels. They will review the move in 2026 after making a formal decision on what role, if any, they expect hydrogen to play compared with alternative low carbon heating options, such as electric heat pumps.  

The government said it believed “low carbon hydrogen may have a role to play in heat decarbonisation, alongside heat pumps and heat networks, but in slower time in some locations”.

However, Martin Callanan, a minister in the energy department, added on X: “Heat pumps and heat networks will be the main route to cutting household emissions for the foreseeable future”. 

Jan Rosenow, programme director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a non-governmental organisation, said: “I think you can read between the lines that this is yet another step towards a decision that will not be in favour of the widespread use of hydrogen for home heating.”

The decision to stop work on the project comes after the government had to abandon two smaller-scale hydrogen heating trials last year amid local opposition and limited availability of the gas. 

Cutting emissions from home heating is one of the biggest challenges facing the government as it tries to meet its legally binding goal of cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Domestic boilers account for about 14 per cent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. 

The prospect of using hydrogen to heat people’s homes has been controversial, with critics arguing the process is highly inefficient compared with heat pumps, which run on electricity to draw warmth from the outside air. 

Last year, the National Infrastructure Commission, the UK’s top infrastructure adviser, urged the government to rule out supporting hydrogen and focus on subsidising heat pumps instead. 

Nick Winser, NIC commissioner, said hydrogen was “simply not ready at scale”. The gas is produced by splitting it from methane or from water, both of which are energy intensive and costly. 

One trial is still due to go ahead in Fife, Scotland, supplying about 300 homes in its first phase. But its start has been delayed until next year, with operator Scotia Gas Networks blaming “supply chain and procurement challenges”.

Any decision on hydrogen’s role will have significant implications for the UK’s gas distribution networks, which include Cadent, part owned by Macquarie, the Australian investment manager.

In a joint statement, UK gas distribution networks said they “welcomed the clarity” on the proposed trial and “continue to support the need to make use of a range of energy solutions if we are to reach net zero in a fair and affordable way for customers that maintains choice”.


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