A plan to test the use of hydrogen to heat homes in a village in the north-east of England have been abandoned after months of strong opposition from concerned residents.
The government said the Redcar “hydrogen village” scheme, which had been expected to start in 2025, will not go ahead because there would not be enough local hydrogen production for the trial to replace the home gas supplies with the low-carbon alternative.
The decision ends months of protest against the scheme which locals feared could raise energy bills and prove unsafe. It follows a similar decision in July, when plans to pilot hydrogen in Whitby, Cheshire, were scrapped after local opposition.
Some residents raised concerns that they were at risk of becoming unwilling “lab rats” for a technology that would never take off in the UK.
The government is due to make a decision about whether its net zero climate plans will include replacing household gas with hydrogen by 2026. It will assess evidence from a pilot in Fife in Scotland, and similar schemes in Europe.
Many experts, including the government’s infrastructure tsars, believe that most households should switch to electric heating options, such as heat pumps, while hydrogen is used in heavy industry.
On Wednesday, the UK government formally backed plans to ban gas and “hydrogen-ready” boilers from new-build homes in England from 2025.
Claire Coutinho, the energy security secretary, said: “Hydrogen presents a massive economic opportunity for the UK, unlocking over 12,000 jobs and up to £11bn of investment by 2030.”
The government said on Thursday it will back 11 new projects that plan to make “green hydrogen”, which is produced by splitting water molecules with renewable electricity. Other hydrogen types include blue hydrogen, which is extracted from fossil gas using carbon capture technology to prevent producing emissions.
Businesses that stand to benefit from the hydrogen projects include the paper manufacturer Sofidel in south Wales, which will replace 50% of its gas consumption with hydrogen at its Port Talbot paper mill. In addition, the InchDairnie Distillery in Fife will use 100% hydrogen in its distilling process, and PD Ports in Teesside will use hydrogen to replace diesel in its vehicle fleet.
Juliet Phillips, a senior policy adviser at the climate thinktank E3G, said the decision to scrap the Redcar home hydrogen trial was “another nail in the coffin for pipe dreams of hydrogen heating”.
She said that although some gas lobbyists had proposed blending hydrogen with the existing gas supply to lower emissions while continuing to supply homes with gas, “the writing [was] on the wall” for fossil heating systems. “It’s time to prepare for a clean, electric future,” she said.
Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “It’s pretty clear that hydrogen will be a bit part player, if any role at all, in home heating in future. Everyone from government ministers to the National Infrastructure Commission accepts that, maybe less so the gas industry.”
She added: “Unless the UK makes the shift away from gas heating, as the North Sea inevitably declines, we’ll simply become more dependent on foreign gas imports and the price they come at. The last two years show why that’s not a good idea.”
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