The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the British parliament’s independent carbon advisory body, and its reccommendations carry significant weight among policymakers. It is interesting, then, that the CCC’s latest report, Next Steps for UK Heat Policy, puts hydrogen for heat squarely on the policy agenda.
The report is blunt that heating is a major driver of the UK’s carbon emissions, and that progress in reducing heat emissions has largely stalled. The UK ‘needs a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework for buildings decarbonisation over the next three decades’. Action is required, and the report leads its ‘Key Messages’ by putting hydrogen front and centre as a possible solution:
Government must set out the role of hydrogen for buildings on the gas grid in the next Parliament. The Government will need to make a set of decisions in the next Parliament and beyond on the best strategy for decarbonising buildings on the gas grid. Specifically, it will have to decide on whether there is a role for hydrogen supplied through existing gas networks (extending the useful life of the gas grid infrastructure) alongside other technologies such as heat pumps.
The report goes on to describe the use of hydrogen for heating as ‘technically feasible’, and benefiting from the fact that it requires no behavioural change from consumers. The problems lie in the potential costs of the changeover and the feasibility of large-scale carbon capture and storage, thus the Committee urges government to adopt a strategy of testing the waters with regulations, demonstration projects and innovation grants:
To understand whether this is desirable and how best to proceed, it will be vital to undertake pilots and demonstrations in the next decade.
If hydrogen proves technically or economically unfeasible, the report suggests heat pumps as an alternate low-carbon technology. Nonetheless, for a major advisory body to recommend the possibility of hydrogen for heat, and on a national scale, is big news. This idea is rising very quickly into serious policy discussions, and we can expect to see more mention of it in the years to come.
To read the full report, go to https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/next-steps-for-uk-heat-policy/.