Calefacción con hidrógeno: revisión de la evidencia científica

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La energía utilizada para la calefacción y refrigeración representa alrededor del 50% del consumo total de energía en el mundo. De esta cifra, casi la mitad se consume para calentar edificios. Y la mayor parte de la energía utilizada se obtiene de combustibles fósiles. Si bien las medidas de eficiencia energética en los edificios pueden contribuir enormemente a reducir las emisiones de la calefacción y la refrigeración, sigue habiendo una gran demanda de alternativas de calefacción con bajas o nulas emisiones de carbono.

Últimamente, los representantes de la industria del gas y la calefacción han promovido el hidrógeno verde como solución clave para sustituir al gas fósil en la red de distribución. Aunque hay muchos usos finales legítimos, actuales y futuros, para el hidrógeno verde, ¿existen pruebas que justifiquen la calefacción de edificios con hidrógeno?

Este artículo analiza diversos análisis independientes sobre el uso del hidrógeno para calentar espacios interiores y para el uso de agua caliente. Se incluyen un total de 32 estudios realizados a escala internacional, regional, nacional, estatal y municipal por un amplio abanico de entidades, como universidades, institutos de investigación, organizaciones intergubernamentales y consultoras. Ninguno de los 32 estudios, mediante el análisis de las pruebas, avala el uso generalizado del hidrógeno para calefacción. Por el contrario, la investigación independiente existente hasta el momento sugiere que, en comparación con otras alternativas como las bombas de calor, la energía solar térmica y la calefacción urbana, el uso del hidrógeno para la calefacción doméstica es menos económico, menos eficiente, consume más recursos y está asociado a un mayor impacto medioambiental.

Clean heat standards: New tools for the fossil fuel phaseout in Europe

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Europe is heavily reliant on fossil fuels in the heating sector. The EU has set itself a goal of deploying 30 million additional heat pumps by 2030. To advance the transition away from fossil fuels in the heating sector, the EU and its Member States have recently proposed or agreed on several heat-related policies. This includes an emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases from heating and transport. The European Commission also announced that it will propose a revision of ecodesign rules for heating appliances, meaning a de facto ban on the sale of standalone fossil fuel boilers by 2029.  Despite these positive actions, additional policy measures are needed to achieve rapid, effective and fair decarbonisation of heating. 

This paper explores how novel policy tools called ‘clean heat standards’ could reinforce the EU framework for heat decarbonisation. Clean heat standards place a quantitative target on market actors, such as energy network companies, energy suppliers and manufacturers of heating equipment, to decarbonise heating and provide some flexibility in how to achieve it. This definition captures different tools, including some already discussed or in use in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. These tools can complement other clean transition policies, for instance appliance standards and bans can directly rule out certain technologies from the market, while clean heat standards could provide a positive target for market actors to meet.  

Clean heat standards, coupled with complementary policies, can help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel heating. RAP offers recommendations to help decision-makers make the most of these tools.

Regret-ready: A briefing on United Kingdom proposals for the mandating of ‘hydrogen-ready’ gas boilers

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The government of the United Kingdom is currently consulting on whether it should mandate that all new gas boilers sold from 2025 be ‘hydrogen-ready’ — that is, they can potentially be converted to run on pure hydrogen in case the gas network is ever converted. This policy change has been proffered as a ‘low-regrets’ policy change.   

The government is expected to take a decision on the use of hydrogen heating in 2026. Until such a decision is made, the mandating of ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers seems to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. The vast majority of independent analysis suggests only a niche role for hydrogen in heating, with heat pumps and heat networks by far the most cost-effective technologies. Far from a ‘low-regrets’ option, the proposed mandate could create risks for heat decarbonisation and long-term disadvantages for consumers. There is a major risk of greenwashing leading to consumer confusion and delay, a risk that boiler prices increase and the potential for government to end up in a heat decarbonisation ‘blame-game.’ 

This brief details the risks of a ‘hydrogen-ready’ boiler mandate being made before the government’s decision on the use of hydrogen heating. The brief suggests that if hydrogen heating should be found favourable in 2026, only then should mandates around hydrogen boilers be considered and even then only in conjunction with a heatmapping process. Until such time, the proposed mandate of ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers is also ‘regret-ready.’ 

How to solve the UK’s heat pump problem

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With fossil fuel prices skyrocketing, emissions from homes in the UK stubbornly high and the price of clean electricity from renewables tumbling, it’s clear that we are not taking the right approach to heating our buildings. Heating, which is dominated by gas, makes up a large share of energy consumption and contributes 23 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, so tackling it is vital for both energy security and clean energy goals.

Government and much independent analysis identifies heat pumps as the key technology to replace gas boilers. The British government has committed to installing 600,000 of them a year by 2028. Yet while the number of heat pump installations is growing, deployment in the UK remains at very low levels.

Preliminary estimates for 2022 show that the UK installed only 60,000 heat pumps – equivalent to two heat pumps per 1,000 households. This puts the UK at the bottom of the European heat pump league table. In Finland, which tops the rankings, nearly 70 heat pumps per 1,000 households have been installed.

How can the UK become a European leader in heat pumps? The House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee has carried out an inquiry into the UK’s main heat pump support scheme, called the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). It concluded that the scheme is “failing to deliver on its objectives with a disappointingly low take-up of grants”; at the present rate only half of the allocated budget would be spent. The design of BUS is not perfect, but it has stimulated the market, even without any government promotion. After failed programmes such as the Green Deal and the Green Homes Grant, the UK can ill-afford yet another scheme that does not meet its potential.

Grant policies such as BUS are typical in all markets with significant heat pump deployment, but it is only one of many ingredients for a successful programme. When we analysed successful heat pump policies around the world, we found that in addition to funding programmes such as the BUS, three other ingredients are needed.

Ingredient one: the running costs of heat pumps need to be significantly lower than those of fossil fuel heating to encourage consumers to make the switch. While heat pumps are currently cheaper to run than gas boilers, the cost savings are relatively modest. The reason for this is that in the UK electricity is taxed for carbon emissions and the majority of levies for environmental and social programmes are attached to electricity bills. Gas and heating oil are subject to no carbon tax and much more limited levies. Several countries have faced similar problems and have begun to reform how they tax and attribute levies to energy, making heat pumps a much more affordable proposition. The UK government is working on this through its electricity market review but this is being held up by delays.

Ingredient two: market certainty through clear regulation and phase-out dates for fossil fuel heating systems. The International Energy Agency says no more fossil fuel heating systems should get installed after 2025 to meet net-zero targets. Many countries have adopted and announced such bans and once put in place, investment in heat pumps has followed. As the Lords committee points out, mixed messages around hydrogen for heating and the lack of clarity about the future of the gas grid is not aiding the transition away from fossil heating. Chris Skidmore MP was right to call for a firm end date for the installation of gas boilers in his net-zero review. The government should also firm up its proposals to ban fossil fuels in new homes and homes off the gas grid.

Ingredient three: wider co-ordination around heat pumps, alongside effective communication to consumers. As the Lords committee points out, 80 per cent of people in the UK have little or no awareness of heat pumps and almost two-thirds are not aware of the need to change their heating system as part of the journey to net zero. A well-designed and executed engagement programme that boosts the role for local authorities and local heating solutions is crucial.

The decarbonisation of UK heating was previously primarily a legal requirement. It’s increasingly clear, however, that it’s an economic imperative, too. Significant political capital is needed to reform the UK’s policy around heating, but that investment will return dividends. The sooner the system can be reformed, the better the returns will be.

The original version of this article first appeared in the New Statesman.

NOx Standards for Water Heaters: Model Rule Technical Support Document

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RAP developed a model rule for use by U.S. state and local air quality regulators to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from water heaters. This technical support document was published to assist regulators and staff in understanding and making use of the model rule. It describes why water heaters are a significant source of air pollution, why NOx emissions standards are an excellent tool for reducing the environmental impact of water heaters and how those standards can promote electrification and market transformation. It also explains in detail the design and structure of the model rule.


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2022年9月,睿博能源智库(RAP)专家与合作伙伴在《自然》杂志能源子刊发表“全球热泵市场升温”(“Heating up the global heat pump market”)的研究文章,对全球热泵市场趋势进行了简要介绍,总结了推动热泵发展的政策措施,对中国热泵行业的发展具有借鉴意义。








‘Hydrogen-ready’ boilers – a lifeline for fossil fuel heating in Europe

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The heating industry is in turmoil. The need to decarbonise energy demand as well as the gas crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have led to governments around Europe setting phase-out dates for the installation of fossil fuel heating systems — something also being considered by EU legislators.

Despite the urgent need to decarbonise and remove fossil fuels, there is a concerning pushback that attempts to preserve the status quo.

Enter ‘hydrogen-ready’ or ‘renewable fuel-ready’ boilers; the fossil fuel heating industry’s latest attempt to slow down clean heating.

During negotiations of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) some members of the European Parliament proposed that “boilers certified to run on renewable fuels … shall not be considered fossil heating systems”.

‘Renewable fuels’ could include hydrogen or biomass-based fuels, such as biogas and bio-oil – both seen to have only a very limited growth potential.

Rather than require all new buildings to be fitted with clean heating systems, such as heat pumps, or be connected to district heating, the proposal would allow the installation of fossil fuel heating systems as long as they could, in theory, one day also run on renewable fuels.

The problem is that a hydrogen-ready boiler is a fossil fuel boiler as long as there is no green hydrogen to supply it. Currently only 0.04% of global hydrogen production is green hydrogen.

Hydrogen or renewable ready boilers have been proposed by the incumbent EU heating industry despite the fact that the EU’s own analysis points towards primarily heat pumps and district heating as the core clean heating technologies.

Calling it ‘clean’ doesn’t make it so

We have seen such approaches before: when the coal industry came under pressure to reduce emissions it promised ‘clean coal’ using carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Significant policy support was subsequently offered, and clean coal attracted a lot of attention from policymakers and the media. The idea was to build CCS-ready coal plants.

However, after years of pilot projects and substantial public investment in coal power plants with CCS, only a single commercially operating facility remains – one 115 megawatt unit of the Boundary Dam Power Station in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Its primary purpose is to provide a low-cost source of carbon dioxide to the Weyburn Oil Field for enhanced oil recovery. In the U.S., after $163 million in public subsidies awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the last commercially operating coal power plant with CCS, Petra Nova, retired in 2021.

The European Union spent €587 million to support the development of clean coal and has little to show for it. If we can learn anything from the history of clean coal, then it is this: great expectations and promises by incumbent industries do not guarantee good outcomes.

We already know what will work and what won’t

We already know that heating homes with hydrogen is a more expensive, less efficient and more environmentally harmful option than proven alternatives. More than 30 independent studies have come to this conclusion.

Green hydrogen from renewable electricity – the only zero-carbon form of hydrogen – will already stretch production for use in sectors where less costly alternatives are unavailable.

We also know that concerns over resource availability and sustainability limit the growth potential of any biomass-based heat sources. This is indeed recognised within the commission’s own impact assessments behind the Fitfor55 package.

The idea that we will have abundant green hydrogen or clean bioenergy supplies sufficient to replace fossil fuels for heating is fanciful. Yet off-the-shelf heat pumps and district heating can reduce primary energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions immediately and cost-effectively.

The International Energy Agency has said that after 2025, we should stop installing fossil fuel boilers. There is no guarantee, indeed it seems quite unlikely, that hydrogen will ever flow through gas distribution networks and biogas and bio-oil will always be limited.

Therefore, most fossil fuel heating systems installed are likely to always run on fossil fuels. Proven technologies, such as heat pumps and clean district heating, immediately reduce carbon emissions, and with the grid and heating supplies getting cleaner every year, those emission reductions will only increase going forward.

The EPBD could be the solution

We’re still in the middle of an energy crisis primarily linked to gas prices. With so much gas used for heating, the EU has the chance to course-correct this obviously problematic issue with the current EPBD.

Providing the energy industry and member states with clarity and direction on heating is vital to ensure investment is driven into the rapid deployment of actual clean heating technologies. The proposed greenwashing of fossil fuel boilers risks undermining progress in the buildings sector where rapid progress is needed.

The original version of this article appeared in Euractiv

Model Rule: NOx Standards for Water Heaters

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Fossil-fueled water heaters represent a significant uncontrolled source of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which have a variety of harmful environmental effects. RAP developed a model rule for use by U.S. state and local air quality regulators to reduce NOx emissions from water heaters over time. A related technical support document explains the background and context of this work and describes in detail how the model rule was designed.