A total of 18 independent studies have now concluded that hydrogen will not be widely used for heating | Reload

A total of 18 independent studies produced since 2019 – including by the IPCC, IEA and McKinsey – have ruled out hydrogen playing a major role in heating buildings, according to a list compiled by renowned energy expert Jan Rosenow. .

Several gas distributors, particularly in Europe, have lobbied in recent years as they seek government support to eventually swap the natural gas at the heart of their business – used primarily to heat homes and businesses – with clean hydrogen.

But study after study has shown that such a scenario would be highly unlikely due to the costs and inefficiencies involved.

For example, the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its recent 2,913-page report Climate Change Mitigation report that almost 0% of buildings will be heated with hydrogen in 2050.

Management consultant McKinsey came to the same conclusion in their 2022 study, The net zero transition: what it would cost, what it could bringwhile the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found in its Net zero by 2050 report last year that its lowest cost path would include less than 2% hydrogen use in decarbonized buildings.

Rosenow — who is the director of the European program at Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), an independent multinational energy-focused non-governmental organization — recounts Reload“For more than two years, I have collected and analyzed all the independent studies I could find on hydrogen for heating. Virtually none of them identify hydrogen heating as a good option for various reasons.

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“This includes the costs, which are higher than other clean heating options such as heat pumps and district heating. It also includes environmental impacts as providing a unit of heat with [green] hydrogen requires about five to six times more renewable electricity than a heat pump. This means five to six times more production capacity, more resources and more land.

He rejects the idea that heat pumps – which are very energy efficient and can also provide air conditioning – won’t work in poorly insulated homes or in freezing conditions.

“Heat pumps are a proven technology widely deployed in cold climates and in all types of buildings. It’s a myth that heat pumps don’t work in old buildings or in cold climates,” he says.

Blue hydrogen, derived from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, has also been proposed for heating homes, but this would actually require more methane per unit of heat than just burning the gas in the first place – far from an ideal proposition during a global gas price crisis.

In addition to the expense and inefficiencies of using hydrogen to heat homes, there are also significant issues surrounding the practicalities of converting appliances and networks to run on 100% H2.

For example, a group of 90 European gas distributors campaigning for 100% hydrogen in their networks, called Ready4H2, inadvertently demonstrated the exact opposite of its name: gas networks will not be ready for pure H2 from so early.

According to the group’s report, Ready4H2: local hydrogen networks in Europepublished last December, only 24% of its members said they would be “fully ready” for 100% hydrogen by 2035, and only 67% said they would be by 2040.

In other words, a third of the most pro-hydrogen gas distributors in Europe say they won’t be quite ready for pure H2 networks in 20 years, and three quarters will not be ready in 15 years.

Rosenow defines “independent” as “not carried out by or on behalf of a specific industry (gas, oil, electricity, heat pumps, boiler manufacturers, etc.). This therefore excludes studies carried out by lobbyists such as the ‘Hydrogen Council and Hydrogen4EU, which are dominated by fossil fuel companies.

The other independent reports in Rosenow’s list were authored by academic institutions, including Imperial College London, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, University of Manchester in the UK; research organizations such as the Wuppertal Institute and the Öko-Institut in Germany, and the Center for Research into Energy Demand Solutions in the UK; non-profit organizations such as the International Council on Clean Transportation and the Commission for Energy Transitions; and analysts such as Element Energy, Agora Energiewende and Michael Liebreich.

For the full list of Rosenow studies, click here.

In addition to his work at RAP, Rosenow also sits on the executive committee of the IEA’s demand management program and has also advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and government departments in several countries, including the United States.

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