In the United Kingdom, policymakers are considering the idea of converting households that currently use gas for heating to instead burn hydrogen. This idea is known to compare poorly, on energy system cost grounds, to widespread energy efficiency, electrification using heat pumps and heat networks. Little attention, however, has been paid to what the actual running cost implications for energy consumers might be.
To investigate how much using hydrogen for heating might cost end consumers, RAP has reviewed best available data. Using even deliberately conservative assumptions, our analysis suggests that using hydrogen could increase bills by at least 70%, up to more than 300%. An at least doubling of bills seems a likely outcome if green hydrogen were to be used, although this increase could be much higher. Our analysis and that of others does not take into account the need for interseasonal hydrogen storage and system balancing, which could add further costs.
Technologies such as heat pumps and heat networks are seen to have much lower system costs than hydrogen, can enhance UK energy security and can bring down bills in the long term compared to gas. Governments invested in the idea of hydrogen for heating may therefore want to consider cutting their losses and refocusing on proven clean heating technologies. Such a refocus towards building-level electrification and efficiency upgrades could reduce tax- and billpayer exposure to the issue of hydrogen use for heating.