Heat pumps have given a boost as MPs tear up the UK’s boiler room strategy

A committee of MPs has ripped up government plans to heat homes with hydrogen boilers, in a major push for heat pump technology. Over the past year, the UK has been ending its dependence on natural gas imports by phasing it out with renewable energy solutions. Under current plans, the government will impose a ban on gas and oil boilers in new homes from 2025. For other homes, it will be illegal to install new gas boilers from 2035. In trying to figure out how to heat homes without gas, the Brits are left with two alternatives – Heat pumps, which use electricity and are more energy efficient, and hydrogen-ready boilers, which are likely to be a future alternative to natural gas.

Last week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that it was consulting on a proposal for all new domestic gas boilers sold from 2026 to be hydrogen-capable.

Supporters of green hydrogen as an energy source argue that this “super fuel” could one day be transported to the UK’s gas grid and would flow into boilers, ensuring that households would not have to pay extra for alternative heating sources such as heat pumps.

However, MPs in Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee criticized the proposal for being unrealistic, warning that hydrogen was “not a panacea” for cutting carbon emissions.

In their summary, they said: “It would be unwise to assume that hydrogen could make a very significant contribution to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions in the short and medium term.”

They warned that to use hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels, the entire British energy system would require a “significant investment” in the networks and infrastructure needed to distribute it across the country.

One example given is that if hydrogen is to completely or substantially replace gas in home heating systems, a “massive and expensive program” to replace boilers, meters, and grid infrastructure will likely be required.

While the authors caution that “it seems likely that any future use of hydrogen will be limited rather than universal,” they note that hydrogen could have some suitable applications.

These include industries that are difficult to electrify, such as some parts of the railway network; In uses that do not require an extensive refueling network – eg local bus services operating from a fixed number of depots.

Read more: Brits considering heat pumps or hydrogen for the future of UK heating

After highlighting some additional uses in the energy storage and industrial sectors, MPs said: “This limited – not universal – use of hydrogen should guide government decisions.

“For example, we do not agree with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that the government should require that new domestic boilers be hydrogen-ready from 2025.

In the words of one of the witnesses to our investigation, hydrogen is likely to be a “big place” where it will play a major role in certain sectors of the economy, and be a “huge growth story” over the next 30 years but “it won’t be everything”.

Commenting on the panel’s report, Gareth Redmond King, Head of International Program at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), hailed heat pumps as the future of UK home heating.

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He said: “Green hydrogen plays a huge role in our net zero future for things that don’t have easy alternatives, like industry, heavy vehicles and shipping. Cheaper and more efficient clean solutions already exist for things like heating our homes.

“If we want to cut emissions and bills quickly, the evidence points to heat pumps – three to five times more efficient than burning gas, without causing air pollution. Not to mention equipping our boilers with gas that is not likely to be available during the life of most boilers.”

The Telegraph quoted a government spokesperson as saying: “Having a low-carbon hydrogen sector here in the UK will be crucial to delivering on energy security, economic growth and our net zero ambitions.

“We expect to have up to 2 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen projects in construction or in operation by 2025. Hydrogen can play an important role in helping decarbonize heat in buildings, but the government has been clear that no decision will be made on this matter.” until 2026, allowing the relevant evidence to be fully studied.”

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