One of the UK’s energy ministers has admitted that using hydrogen for heat will be logistically impossible for the vast majority of homes, ahead of a major decision from his department on whether or not to run an H2 heating trial on 1,800 properties in one of England’s most deprived areas.
Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) minister Lord Martin Callanan acknowledged in an interview with Sky News over the weekend that hydrogen will not play a major role in home heating, adding: “There's no way that could be practically achieved”.
“It is clear that the vast majority of decarbonisation of home heating in the UK will be electrification,” he explained.
Callanan echoes comments from his former boss at DESNZ, Grant Shapps, who this summer began to downplay the UK government’s commitment to widespread hydrogen heating — ahead of a decision in 2026 on whether or not to support the technology.
Rolling out hydrogen heating across the UK would require the company’s gas network operators to upgrade gas distribution pipes to carry hydrogen, as well as switching off parts of the gas network in order to supply H2. As a result, houses connected to certain parts of the network would need to switch from gas to hydrogen all at the same time — or install some form of secondary heating system during conversion.
It would also require households connected to the gas network to install new appliances, or have their existing boiler upgraded, if it is “hydrogen-ready”.
It is also dependent on a reliable supply of hydrogen, at affordable prices — which experts have warned is unlikely. In fact, analysis from Cornwall Insight has predicted that the cost of heating a home with hydrogen in the UK would cost double that of using natural gas by 2030.
In addition, there are question marks around the safety of using existing gas pipes to carry H2, which is a far more smaller molecule and more liable to leak from joints.
As a result, the UK government appears to be favouring a cluster approach to hydrogen heating, in which houses are supplied with H2 from projects located in areas high levels of industrial hydrogen demand.
“If we have hydrogen production locally it might play a small role in some localised areas”, Callanan said.
Nevertheless, the UK’s own infrastructure advisors have warned that converting even small amounts of the network over to hydrogen would raise overall energy system costs by nearly a fifth.
And the government continues to insist that it has not made a decision on whether or not to support and part-subsidise a trial of hydrogen heating in Redcar, northeast England, where residents complain that they have been denied impartial advice on hydrogen heating and fear that they are being “experimented” on.
Ministers says they will deliver a verdict on the trial before the end of the year.