16 May 2023, 13:47
Sören Amelang

Hydrogen heating “sham” solution, NGOs, unions, trade groups warn

Zeit Online

“Hydrogen-ready” gas boilers are nothing but window dressing because they delay effective climate action, are unlikely to be ever powered by renewable gas, and could end up being very expensive for consumers, a broad alliance of German environmentalists, trade unions, consumer groups and professional associations has warned. "In view of the increasingly pressing climate crisis, there is no time to rely on sham solutions and use [‘hydrogen-ready‘ boilers] to justify continuing to heat with natural gas for many years to come," the alliance said in an open letter to parliamentarians, according to a report in Zeit Online. The 16 signatories – which include NGO Friends of the Earth, the umbrella group of consumer protection agencies, as well as the central association of German chimney sweeps – said support for these boilers should be removed from the government’s draft law for decarbonising the heating sector. "Installing a new gas heating system in the hope of being able to run it on climate-neutral hydrogen in the short or medium term is associated with immense ecological and financial risks," they write.

Reducing emissions in the building sector has remained a blind spot of Germany’s energy transition, but the country is currently making concrete plans for reducing its massive heating emissions. According to the current proposal agreed by the government, only heating systems that run on at least 65 percent renewable energy can be newly installed from the start of next year. “Hydrogen-ready” boilers would also be allowed if the local gas grid operator has an approved plan to switch to hydrogen. Given fierce resistance from within the government coalition and the opposition, the proposals are set to be amended in the upcoming parliamentary process. “Hydrogen-ready” heating systems were inserted into the draft law at the insistence of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) in the name of “technology freedom.” But most experts say it doesn’t make sense to use hydrogen for heating because it is highly inefficient and set to remain a scarce and valuable resource, meaning it will also be expensive. Dozens of independent studies have concluded that hydrogen will not play a significant role in heating, given that it will require five to six times more renewable energy than heat pumps.

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