The use of 100% hydrogen in space heating will cost at least twice that of fossil gas and could cost almost four times as much if using hydrogen made with grid electricity, according to new analysis from a UK-based think tank.

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Using pricing data from the UK government, the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) found that the use of hydrogen made with grid electricity and an alkaline electrolyser would push the retail heating price to around £0.19/kWh ($236/MWh) by 2030, compared to around £0.05/kWh ($62/MWh) for fossil gas.

By 2050, this would only have dipped to around £0.18/kWh, the modelling found.

Green hydrogen made using a dedicated offshore wind farm would be slightly cheaper, coming in at around £0.12/kW by 2030 and £0.10/kWh by 2050 — still twice as expensive as fossil gas, and similar in price to blue hydrogen made with fossil gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

But these estimates for blue hydrogen are probably conservative, noted RAP’s report, How much would hydrogen for heating cost in the UK?.

This is because the UK government has yet to update its hydrogen price projections, so in order to “compare apples with apples”, the authors used government gas price data and hydrogen price projections from before the gas price spike in 2022.

As gas prices are expected to fall almost back to pre-2022 levels by 2030, these data sets give a clearer long-term picture in any case, explained authors Jan Rosenow and Richard Lowes.

The UK is considering whether to endorse hydrogen heating and blending, with a decision on heating scheduled from Whitehall by 2026. Officials are planning a series of hydrogen heating trials in the coming years, but has faced a significant backlash from areas chosen to compete to host the initiative.

“It seems increasingly likely that the mass use of hydrogen for heating is a disaster in the making,” said the authors. “The fundamental physicals means that, compared to electrification it is an inefficient and costly option.”

RAP also found that introducing blends of hydrogen into the existing gas mix would raise UK consumer heating bills significantly. A 20% blend would increase prices by 20% if using grid-derived electrolytic hydrogen and 8% if using hydrogen from a dedicated offshore wind farm.

But the carbon savings would be tiny, with the Fraunhofer Institute estimating last year that a 20% blend would result in emissions reductions of just 6-7%. Fraunhofer’s analysis — which was based on European hydrogen blending — found that prices would rise even more, by up to 43%.

Earlier this month, a coalition of energy companies, think tanks and charities sent an open letter to UK energy minister Grant Shapps warning that blending would fail to stimulate industrial demand or reduce carbon emissions, all while exacerbating fuel poverty.

The authors also expressed concern about the UK government’s proposed hydrogen levy, which would be added to consumer heating bills in 2025 — whether or not H2 is ever put into the grid — to fund subsidies for hydrogen producers and infrastructure owners.

“This is alarming because it means that energy billpayers could end up subsidising industrial polluters by funding hydrogen for industry, whether or not any of the energy being subsidised reached households,” the report warned.