More than 200 green-minded organisations have signed a letter calling upon municipalities in Germany to ignore gas lobby groups and avoid relying on green hydrogen in their upcoming heating plans.

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Under Germany’s new Building Energy Act, which came into force at the start of this year, all heating systems must run on renewable energy sources by 2045.

As part of this, all 10,753 municipalities in the country are legally obliged to come up with a district heating plan by 2026 or 2028 (depending on their size) — to decide whether to build new or expanded district heating systems and/or allow green hydrogen to be piped into people’s homes for use in boilers, before 2035, or whether all residents and businesses should switch to fully electric heating.

In response, more than 200 green-minded German organisations have signed a letter sent to the mayor of every municipality in Germany, calling on them to ignore gas lobby groups and completely avoid the use of hydrogen in heating, which they say is a “false solution” and a “cost trap”.

“Hydrogen is inefficient, is unlikely to be available and will therefore remain expensive in the medium and long term,” they write. “Hydrogen in municipal heat planning therefore represents a cost trap for municipalities and their citizens. In addition, hydrogen in heat planning endangers national climate goals.”

The letter quotes well-known German economist Claudia Kemfert as saying: “Heating with hydrogen is like showering with champagne.”

The document explains: “More than 50 independent scientific studies show that [green] hydrogen heating systems are not suitable for decentralized use in heating buildings as they use four to six times as much energy for heating as commercially available [electric] heat pumps.”

“If a hydrogen network for [district] heating were actually implemented in your community, significant additional costs would burden your local citizens who have relied on the municipality's heat planning.”

Hydrogen use in heating would endanger climate goals because if green hydrogen is not available, grey hydrogen derived from unabated fossil fuels would have to be used instead, the organisations say.

Their views on hydrogen for heating are actually similar to the view expressed by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, run by Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Green Party, which stated last year that: “A decentralised hydrogen supply, especially for heating customers or individual households, currently seems unlikely because of the high costs of hydrogen in the heating sector and, above all, because of the presumably limited quantities available.”

The environmental groups’ letter continues: “While there is scientific consensus that hydrogen is unsuitable for heating buildings for the reasons mentioned, the gas lobby is promoting the widespread use of hydrogen in heat supply. It relies on just four studies, all of which were commissioned or financed by the gas industry itself.”

“If municipalities rely on hydrogen, the gas industry benefits because, on the one hand, they can continue to sell natural gas for a very long time and, on the other hand, they potentially make high profits from expensive hydrogen.

“The gas industry is therefore concerned with securing its business model.”

The seven-page letter concludes: “We therefore ask you: Make your community's heat supply crisis-proof, cost-effective and climate-neutral. Prevent hydrogen in municipal heat planning and limit the use of biomass, biogas and combustion processes overall. Your citizens and the climate will thank you!”

Signatories include Greenpeace, WWF and various local branches of Extinction Rebellion. For the full list, click here.