The idea of having UK homes powered by hydrogen became quite vivid over a decade ago when the first hydrogen-powered home was opened in Lye, near Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Fast forward to today, the British government is proposing a green revolution to have UK homes powered by energy-efficient options. But to the surprise of many in the energy industry, the initiative didn’t include hydrogen. This begs the question: does the government see hydrogen as a solution to net-zero home heating?
Understanding the Green Homes Grant
The Green Homes Grant initiative is one of the British government schemes towards achieving 2050 ‘net zero’ emissions target. Announced in 2020, the grant will help landlords and homeowners make improvements to their homes, using energy-saving options. This may include adding insulation and using low carbon heating to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced in tier homes. The grant would help hundreds of thousands of homes become energy efficient and save on their annual energy bills.
Through the Green Homes Grant, property owners will be able to apply for funding vouchers for making upgrades to their homes. Most landlords will get vouchers worth up to £5,000 while those on the lowest income may access up to £10,000.
The vouchers will help reimburse landlords on money spent on their properties to provide energy-efficient upgrades. Specifically, for every amount spent for this purpose, the government will provide two-thirds of it. If a landlord spends £5,000 in providing upgrades in their homes, only one-third of the money would be paid by the landlord while the government covers the rest.
To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be living in England and:
- own their own home (including long-leaseholders)
- own their own park home on a residential site (including Gypsy and Traveller sites)
- be a residential landlord on a residential site (including local authorities and housing associations)
The Green Homes Grant isn’t extended to newly built homes which have not been previously occupied.
Making a Case for Hydrogen
It must be said that the green homes grant is a laudable initiative that will significantly turnaround the way we heat our homes and a big boost to the government’s efforts to ensure a safe climatic condition. That said, it is high time the government and industry players in the home improvement sector started paying attention to hydrogen as an effective option towards achieving a low-carbon future.
This is because hydrogen has proven to be a highly efficient fuel with zero carbon emission when burned. Already, there exists an efficient gas network that serves UK homes effectively. So, instead of replacing this working technology across the country (putting it to waste), we can improve it simply by changing the fuel we use – and hydrogen is a perfect alternative for that. Changing our gas network to hydrogen would allow UK homeowners to heat their homes using a boiler without releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Hydrogen is more energy-efficient than natural gas – meaning it would require less fuel.
Findings show that between a quarter and a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emission comes from warming of homes. That is more than 10 times the level of CO2 the aviation industry generates. We have an enormous task on our hands if we must achieve the zero-emission target in 2050. Hydrogen can help us achieve the aim; even so cleanly and effectively. Fortunately, there is an abundance of hydrogen in the natural world.
A study by leading UK engineers shows that there are many benefits to derive from the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. For instance, it can be produced in large volume from natural gas using a process known as gas reforming. In addition, by 2030, hydrogen-safe polyethene pipes will have replaced most of the UK’s iron mains gas networks. Then there will be a need to replace existing gas boilers in homes, but boilers have a working life of 10 to 15 years, and they could be phased in with hydrogen-ready boilers at a little additional cost.
“We are now in a position to seriously consider the viability of using hydrogen in the UK’s gas grid for use by homes and businesses which could significantly contribute to the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy sector,” Lead author, Dr Robert Samson posited.
Of course, switching from natural gas to hydrogen won’t be an easy task, considering that there will be some technological and practical hurdles as there is no existing blueprint for such a conversion. However, given the enormous advantages it offers, it is definitely an option worth exploring.
Some leading boiler manufacturers are already poised to lead this revolution by developing hydrogen-ready boilers. In February 2020, Worcester Bosch unveiled its hydrogen-ready boiler prototypes. Baxi is another manufacturer leading this initiative.
Olusegun Akinfenwa, Contributor
Olusegun is a political correspondent for ImmiNews, a UK based organization that covers political and social events from around the world.