Although solar, hydro and wind power play a growing role in the UK’s energy landscape, not everything can be powered this way with current technology.
In particular, gas boilers seem resistant to these renewable technologies. The way this has typically been dealt with has been in improving the efficiency of gas boilers, a trend that continues as Claire Perry – UK Energy & Clean Growth Minister – announces a rise in the minimum efficiency standard for boilers to 92%.
But a more exciting piece of news came at the same time – an announcement of £20m in funding for the Hydrogen Supply Programme, which is investigating the possibility of switching to hydrogen heated homes.
“Why hydrogen?” you might ask. As it turns out, there are several advantages in moving towards hydrogen heating.
A big reason why hydrogen heating is likely to be on the cards is that it requires relatively little investment in infrastructure.
Existing gas pipelines and fittings would be suitable for the switch to hydrogen, and it is safe for household use.
In addition to this, it is expected that most household appliances would remain usable even if the switch were made today.
This is a massive advantage for hydrogen heating. Big changes in energy policy often cost big money, which can throw a spanner in the works and halt progress on moving towards a clean energy economy. With few upfront costs for the taxpayer and the consumer, hydrogen heating looks very promising.
Currently, gas boilers use natural gas which is comprised mostly of methane and some other hydrocarbons. When these are burned, CO2 is released in to the atmosphere – harming our environment.
Hydrogen is just hydrogen, with the carbon emissions coming mainly from production.
In comparison, hydrogen heating is a far better alternative to natural gas boilers in terms of carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, producing low-carbon hydrogen is currently very expensive. Making low-carbon hydrogen production cost effective is, in part, what the £20m of funding for the Hydrogen Supply Programme is aimed at addressing.
It is increasingly important for UK consumers that heating costs and associated carbon emissions are reduced moving forward.
60% of the average UK household’s monthly bills come from heating the home, representing the most significant cost for the UK consumer. Reducing this number has become a priority for successive governments since 2005, when the first set of world-leading boiler efficiency standards were implemented.
Hydrogen heating has real potential to become the standard household heating technology for the future.
The UK already has the largest and most valuable boiler industry in the world, so this funding for the Hydrogen Supply Programme to investigate hydrogen heating may pave the way not just for the future of the UK’s gas boiler industry, but may change the way that people all over the globe heat their homes.