It has been announced that Whitby in Ellesmere Port will not become the UK’s first ‘hydrogen village’ due to opposition from local residents.
Lord Martin Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance at the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) tweeted on 10th July 2023:
” After listening to the views of residents, it’s clear that there is no strong local support, therefore Whitby will no longer be considered as the location for the UK’s first hydrogen village trail – discussing with NGN re: Redcar are ongoing and we’ll announce the next steps shortly”
Cadent’s proposal to switch 2,000 homes in the Whitby area of Ellesmere Port from Natural Gas to hydrogen was one of two projects in the running to deliver the government’s Hydrogen Village Trial, the other being Norther Gas Network’s (NGN) bid for Redcar in the North-East of England. Redcar is the only location now being considered for the Hydrogen Village Trial.
Why did residents of Whitby, Ellesmere Port, reject hydrogen?
Local residents mounted a campaign which raised a number of issues, including:
- Forced removal of natural gas supply
- Lack of certainty about what happens at the end of the 2-year trail in terms of ongoing running costs and maintenance of hydrogen appliances and equipment.
- Lack of proven environmental benefits
- No independent/unbiased support for the ‘blue’ hydrogen in a domestic setting.
Similar concerns have been raised by residents of Redcar.
Is hydrogen a zero-carbon fuel?
Potentially, yes, but we are a long way away from producing enough hydrogen from renewables sources at a viable cost. Worldwide, almost all hydrogen is produced using a fossil-fuel intensive process called natural gas reforming. This is called ‘Grey’ hydrogen.
Hydrogen produced by using surplus renewable energy from tech like Solar & wind is called ‘Green’ Hydrogen. This is the ideal scenario, but production costs are huge. Green Hydrogen accounts for a tiny percentage of hydrogen produced in the UK & Worldwide.
‘Blue’ hydrogen is the middle ground – essentially ‘grey’ hydrogen with the addition of carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, CCS brings additional challenges and arguably does nothing to end our over-reliance on fossil fuels.
Is hydrogen suitable for domestic heating?
While there is certainly a role for hydrogen in the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors, such as long-distance haulage and heavy industry, a number of research projects have concluded that is unsuitable for domestic heating:
- MCS Charitable Foundation, Hydrogen Costs (22nd September 2022) – this report found that using 100% hydrogen would increase the cost of home heating by 70% by 2050 compared to natural gas.
- ‘Is heating homes with hydrogen all but a pipe dream? An evidence review’ by Jan Rosenow, Principal and Director of European Programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) – a peer-reviewed meta-analysis of 32 independent studies concluded that making hydrogen viable, efficient and cost-effective for domestic use presented too many technical difficulties. Not one study in the analysis supported the use of hydrogen over the renewable alternatives, such as heat pumps and Solar PV due to energy and consumer costs.
Electrification is the future of heat!
Today, a significant a growing proportion of UK electricity comes from renewable sources such as Wind, Solar, Hydro and Bioenergy technologies.
2020 was a landmark year, in which 43% of our power was generated from renewable sources – more than fossil fuels for the first time in history. While this was largely due to Covid lockdowns, last year also saw similar results, with 40% of our electricity generated by Gas, Coal & Oil compared to 42% from Wind, Solar, Hydro , Marine & Bioenergy.
As our grid gets greener, so do the electrically powered systems that heat our homes.
Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) use the electrical energy to transfer heat from the outside air to the inside of a building for heating purposes, with a typical efficiency of 300% or more. Combined with microgeneration from Solar PV, Battery Storage Systems and Smart tariffs, homeowners can get close to 100% self-consumption.
We are much further down the road to net zero homes with renewables compared to hydrogen- Long live the heat pump!
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