Leading boiler manufacturers, Worcester Bosch and Baxi, are calling on the UK government to mandate hydrogen-ready boilers for new installs by 2025 in response to a report by the Hydrogen Taskforce.
The Hydrogen Taskforce is a government initiative which brings ten organisations which are leaders in the current and future energy and heating systems to create a pathway for a future built on hydrogen energy. Specifically in the case of home heating, to phase out our reliance on the natural gas grid in favour of a hydrogen grid.
The Taskforce’s report is called ‘The Role of Hydrogen in delivering Net Zero’ and sets out actions that must be taken by industry and government over the next 5 years to scale hydrogen applications, specifically its production, distribution and storage.
How do we make the change to hydrogen heating?
While we currently use a 100% natural gas grid, the grid is actually able to work effectively with some hydrogen as all gas boilers sold after 1996 were legally required to be able to sustain 23% hydrogen under current regulations.
The first stage is likely to involve adding hydrogen into the existing natural gas network at a ratio of 20% hydrogen, 80% hydrogen. This is already being trialled at Keele University in Staffordshire where 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas blend is being used to heat 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings. Further trials are planned in for 2020 with the ultimate aim of blending hydrogen into the network on a nationwide scale by 2025. The ultimate aim is that, eventually, our gas grid would be 100% hydrogen.
Is your boiler hydrogen-ready?
Over the next 5 years hydrogen will be added to the gas grid, but that does not mean that you need to have a hydrogen-ready boiler straight away. Modern boilers are able to accommodate up to 20% hydrogen which will be the first phase of the transition. It is likely to take around 10 years for industry to achieve adequate hydrogen production, storage and distribution levels to make any higher level a realistic option.
When hydrogen is widely available, UK homeowners will need to have hydrogen-ready boilers. If their boiler is relatively modern this should be able to be achieved with a simple and low-cost modification, but older boilers may need to be replaced with hydrogen-ready boilers which can run on 100% hydrogen without modification.
These boilers will be able to run on natural gas, or a natural gas-hydrogen 80:20 blend, but when hydrogen is widely available they will be able to work on 100% hydrogen. Boiler manufacturers such as Baxi and Worcester Bosch have already developed hydrogen-ready boilers and are calling on the government to mandate that all new boilers installed from 2025 be hydrogen-ready.
What has Baxi said?
Jeff House, Head of External Affairs for Baxi Heating, said: “Baxi and others in the heating industry are preparing to deliver clean heating and play our part in tackling climate change. We now call on the government to match our commitment with a clear message that hydrogen is one of the key solutions to deliver Net Zero by committing £1bn towards readying the UK for hydrogen in the upcoming Spending Review.
“From the consumer’s perspective, hydrogen will offer everything they value from their current heating solution, namely instantaneous heat and hot water delivered by the existing gas network. Hydrogen offers a straightforward and practical solution for the consumer and we urge government to prioritise it in its future plans.”
“Our membership of the Hydrogen Taskforce is a clear demonstration of our belief that hydrogen will play a key role in the future of heat. We are pioneering the use of hydrogen for heating, having already developed a ‘’hydrogen boiler’’ which can be initially installed to operate on natural gas then converted to hydrogen quickly and easily at a future date. This is known as a ‘’Hydrogen Ready’’ boiler.
“The installation of ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers could begin long before 100% hydrogen is available within a locality by utilising the existing natural gas network. Once hydrogen is available, the hydrogen ready boilers can be simply and easily converted to hydrogen without the need for a new heating system.’’
Why swap natural gas grid for hydrogen?
While natural gas emits carbon into the atmosphere when burnt in a boiler, hydrogen does not. It is also a more energy efficient fuel and, as 37% of the UK’s carbon emissions are due to the heating industry, it could therefore be a key weapon in the UK’s fight to reach net zero carbon levels by 2050.
Introducing the 20% hydrogen blend out across the country could save about 6m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the equivalent of taking 2.5m cars off the road.
To make a hydrogen network viable, we need to find carbon-neutral ways of producing hydrogen at scale. Baxi are also calling on the government to invest £1 billion into hydrogen production, distribution and storage.
Need a new boiler?
Hydrogen-ready boilers are not yet available to buy or install, so if you need to replace your boiler and future-proof your heating system, a modern gas boiler is still the best choice. If you choose a new boiler from a leading manufacturer it will be able to run on just natural gas for the next few years and then 20% hydrogen until a hydrogen network is up and running in 10-15 years. This is the average lifespan for a boiler, so by the time your boiler has run its course you will be ready to replace it and can do so with a hydrogen-ready boiler.