UK Could Require All New Boilers to Be ‘Hydrogen Ready’ by 2026
The UK could ban new natural-gas exclusive boilers beginning in 2026.
According to a consultation announced Tuesday, the government is considering requiring all new boilers installed from 2026 to be hydrogen-ready, meaning that they could run on either gas or hydrogen.
“Mandating hydrogen-ready boilers is an important step towards decarbonising homes,” Chief Executive of Energy and Utilities Alliance and The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council Mike Foster said, as The Telegraph reported. “Boiler manufacturers have already made their ‘price promise’ so that a new hydrogen-ready boiler will cost the same as a natural gas appliance. So this means 1.7 million homes a year will be ready for net zero at no extra cost to the consumer, helping us hit our 2050 target.”
The UK government is working to decarbonize buildings as part of its commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Towards that end, there have been various previous announcements about bans of new gas boilers. By 2025, gas boilers will not be included in the construction of new homes, as The Guardian reported in 2019., while a ban on new gas-only boiler sales had previously been set for 2035, according to The Telegraph.
The new plan would move that date up by nine years but also pave the way towards using the existing low pressure gas network for hydrogen instead.
“Mandating hydrogen-ready boilers will give industry the confidence to prepare supply chains to ensure the benefits of the potential transition are maximised,” officials said in the consultation document, as The Guardian reported Tuesday.
However, the pivot to hydrogen is not without controversy. Essentially, there are two main ways forward for decarbonizing building heating in the UK: green hydrogen or heat pumps.
When heated for fuel, hydrogen only releases water, as the Financial Times explains. However, hydrogen can be produced via a “green” method, i.e. using renewable energy to power the electrolysis of water or a “blue” method, which means converting natural gas into hydrogen and storing the carbon dioxide. This is currently the way that most hydrogen is produced, according to The Telegraph, which means hydrogen does not help with net-zero goals at the moment.
The other heating solution is to install energy efficient electric heat pumps that are powered by an increasingly decarbonized grid. The downside of this method is that heat pumps can cost as much as £15,000 and work best in well-insulated homes, which the UK lacks.
The downside of hydrogen is that it remains untested at scale, and some climate campaigners argue that natural gas companies are pushing it out of a vested interest in not having to abandon their infrastructure.
“[Heating with hydrogen is] like making dog food with caviar, in that it’s impossibly expensive and in limited supply,” Global Witness leader of the fossil fuels campaign Alice Harrison said, as the Financial Times reported. “We should focus on cleaner and more affordable solutions like heat pumps, instead of trying to keep happy the gas companies, masked as hydrogen suppliers.”