UK struggling to get hydrogen home heating trials off the ground

In another blow to the UK Government’s plans to decarbonise heating through the use of hydrogen, plans to trial a “hydrogen neighbourhood” in Scotland look set to be delayed until at least 2025.

UK struggling to get hydrogen home heating trials off the ground

The hydrogen neighbourhood trials in Fife were expected to commence in the second half of 2024 and the project was being led by gas company SGN.

The H100 Fife project was touted as “the world’s first 100% hydrogen-to-homes heating network” by the local council. The first phase was due to connect 300 homes to a heat network that utilised hydrogen produced in a plant powered by a nearby offshore wind farm.

SGN has confirmed that the project has been delayed for at least six months, meaning that it will come online at the start of 2025 at the earliest. SGN cites supply chain issues as the primary reason.

Gas distribution networks are keen for blends of hydrogen, potentially reaching 100%, to be used in homes. This would prevent them from winding down their infrastructure. MPs and energy research bodies have argued that this would be inefficient in terms of costs and carbon, with hydrogen best saved for harder-to-abate activities than home heating.

The Government is aiming to make a final decision on the role of hydrogen in gas networks in 2026. Trials at numerous villages were meant to inform this decision, but the project in Fife has been delayed and other notable projects have been scrapped altogether.

Last year, the Government cancelled a planned, two-year trial to fit a village with hydrogen-ready boilers.

The trial, meant to take place in Whitby in 2025, was set to impact around 2,000 homes, which would’ve had their boilers replaced with hydrogen-ready models. Blends of hydrogen would be tested first, increasing to 100% hydrogen.

Many Whitby residents opposed the trials taking place in their area, arguing that the Government and the companies involved had not provided clear enough information to allay their concerns about safety.

The Government’s own climate advisors have stated that, regardless of what decisions are made for the end-use of hydrogen, current progress to roll out electric heat pumps and connected heat networks is far too slow.

Last week, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) set out new analysis highlighting policy gaps and project delivery delays around issues such as home energy efficiency, heat pumps and reducing electricity costs. It warned that the Government was going backwards on key areas of energy efficiency and security.

Commenting on the latest delays, Jess Ralston, Energy Analyst at ECIU said: “Hydrogen trials were supposed to have started already, but local opposition has seen two cancelled already. This trial now won’t start until summer 2025 with the Government due to make a policy decision on the future of home heating the very next year.

“Unless the UK shifts away from gas boilers, as the North Sea output continues its inevitable decline, UK homes will become ever more dependent on foreign gas imports. It’s widely acknowledged that electric heat pumps running on British renewables will make the UK more energy independent.

“As many experts, including the National Infrastructure Commission, have been saying for some time, hydrogen will only play a very limited role in home heating. It looks increasingly like a pipe dream.”

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    I am probably very old-fashioned, but I cannot help believing that undertakings as vitally important as Gas, Water and Electricity should be National Authorities, and not in private hands.
    HMG have to rely on bribery rather than reason, in order to rationalise these industries.
    Ah me!!!!

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