Hydrogen is ‘not a panacea’ for cutting carbon emissions, warn MPs
Hydrogen is “not a panacea” for cutting carbon emissions and plans to require all new boilers to be hydrogen-ready in four years time are unrealistic, warned a leading Westminster Committee.
MPs on the Science and Technology Committee argued that the challenging involved in producing the energy source at scale meant its role was likely to be limited in the UK’s future energy system.
In its latest report, the committee highlighted “conflicting views” on the role the energy source could play in domestic heating, compared to electric heat pumps.
The Government is targeting 10GW of hydrogen generation by the end of the decade as part of its energy security strategy to reach net zero and reduce its reliance on overseas suppliers.
This includes hydrogen produced from low carbon gas (blue) and from splitting water with renewable electricity (green).
Hydrogen’s long-term use could be limited
While chiefly used in chemical production and oil refining, investors in hydrogen believe it could replace fossil fuels for heating and transport – particularly due to its comparatively low emissions.
However, the committee suggested hydrogen’s long-term use would be restricted to where other options are unsuitable, or in areas which are close to production hubs.
It predicted the energy source would be best applied to areas of the economy where there are not yet any viable green alternatives, such as heavy industry, parts of the rail network and public transport.
In particular, the committee was “unconvinced” it would be able to play a widespread role in heating homes by 2026.
The report said: “It seems likely that any future use of hydrogen will be limited rather than universal, This limited – rather than universal – use of hydrogen should inform Government decisions.”
This follows the Government’s proposals last week for all boilers installed after 2026 to be hydrogen-ready.
Currently, 85 per cent domestic boilers run on natural gas, however the Government is seeking to shift homeowners to more environmentally friendly energy sources to meet the UK’s net zero goals.
Committee chair, Greg Clark MP, said: “Hydrogen can play an important role in decarbonising the UK’s economy, but it is not a panacea. There are significant infrastructure challenges associated with converting our energy networks to use hydrogen and uncertainty about when low-carbon hydrogen can be produced at scale at an economical cost.”
Ministers will make a decision on whether it is appropriate for domestic heating by 2026.
The Government has been approached for comment.