The UK’s boiler industry has been handed a new boost, as the Government has unveiled new £102million in innovation funding for developing hydrogen and nuclear technologies. Over the past year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a global fossil energy crisis, as wholesale natural gas costs have skyrocketed. As a result, the UK has accelerated its push towards clean energy, reducing its reliance on expensive natural gas imports. The funding, announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, includes £77million to bolster nuclear fuel production and support the development of the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors.
The rest of the funding, about £25million in total, has been set aside for technologies that can produce hydrogen from sustainable biomass and waste, while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Over the past year, many experts have called on using hydrogen as a solution to tackling both the fossil fuel energy and climate crises, boosting our energy security by harnessing the most abundant element in the universe to power our industries.
Given that the production of “green hydrogen” only releases water as a byproduct, the source is also regarded as a climate solution, helping the UK achieve its legally binding net zero commitments.
Aside from this funding boost, the Government also announced that it is consulting on a proposal for all new domestic-scale gas boilers sold from 2026 to be capable of being powered by hydrogen.
Proponents of green hydrogen as an energy source argue that this “super fuel” could one day be piped into the UK’s gas network, and would flow into boilers, ensuring that households would not have to pay extra for alternative heating sources like heat pumps.
Commenting on the announcement, the EUA’s CEO Mike Foster said: “Mandating hydrogen-ready boilers is an important step towards decarbonising homes. The Government are absolutely right to support this no-regrets option.
“Boiler manufacturers have already made their ‘price promise’ so that a new hydrogen-ready boiler will cost the same as a natural gas appliance. So this means 1.7 million homes a year will be ready for net zero at no extra cost to the consumer.”
“There are currently around 23 million homes using gas boilers in the UK, simply allowing the natural replacement cycle to take place means that by 2040 every home would be ready to see natural gas replaced with hydrogen.
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“At scale, this system-led decarbonisation of homes delivers exactly what the government needs – hitting net zero at the lowest cost and least disruption to the consumer.”
“This policy means that British workers will still make boilers for British homes, rather than importing other appliances. It is at the very heart of a ‘just transition’ to a net zero world. They will then use hydrogen produced right here, ceasing our reliance on the global gas market that Putin has wreaked havoc with.”
However, while hydrogen has been widely praised for its potential in industrial uses, gradually phasing out natural gas, many have dismissed the idea of using hydrogen in household boilers.
Dr Jan Rosenow, the director of the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), an NGO aimed at advancing policy innovation within the energy community slammed green hydrogen, tweeting: “How much will green hydrogen cost compared to fossil gas?
“Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) data on future cost projections for green hydrogen indicate that green hydrogen is expected to be 3-11 times more expensive than fossil gas at pre-pandemic prices.”
In a recent assessment, the International Energy Agency was dismissive of using hydrogen as a low-carbon alternative to gas boilers, hailing heat pumps instead.
Their report said that hydrogen boilers will have a “negligible role” in the space and water heating fuel mix by 2030.
They wrote: “A key reason is that when accounting for the energy losses associated with hydrogen conversion, transport and use, hydrogen technologies for use in buildings are much less efficient than heat pumps and other available options.”