A government consultation is underway that could ensure hydrogen-ready boilers are ready to install in UK homes from 2026. And if implemented, the consultation could pave the way to a ban on natural gas-only boilers being sold from 2026.
“Mandating hydrogen-ready boilers will give industry the confidence to prepare supply chains to ensure the benefits of the potential transition are maximised,” said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which announced the consultation.
It also marks a significant update after the government said last year it would not make a firm decision on what role hydrogen heating will play in UK homes until 2026.
Hydrogen-ready boiler prototypes are under development by the likes of Baxi Heating and Worcester Bosch, so far running with a hydrogen mix of 20%. The consultation, which ends in March 2023, is unlikely to immediately look at converting hydrogen-ready boilers to run on 100% hydrogen gas.
What are hydrogen-ready boilers?
Hydrogen-ready boilers run on natural gas and a 20% blend of hydrogen, and have the capability to run on a 100% hydrogen gas network.
These boilers have been trialled across the UK but are not yet available to homeowners. It is thought that they could be rolled out between 2023-2025. 100% hydrogen boilers are also undergoing extensive trials but are not likely to be released to the UK market for several years.
One of the benefits for homeowners who install a hydrogen-ready boiler is that it will enable a smooth transition to hydrogen when it is introduced to the UK gas grid. This means that homeowners will be able to avoid disruption caused by changing cookers or boilers.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA), the industry body representing energy network operators in the UK, said earlier this year that it is preparing to introduce 20% hydrogen into the regular UK gas grid from 2023.
Will there be a natural gas boiler-only ban?
No new homes are expected to be connected to the gas network from 2025, as part of the Future Homes Standard. But uncertainty remains over the timeframe for the phase-out of natural gas boilers in existing homes.
An outright ban date of 2035 for existing homes has been widely reported in the media, but the government’s language has softened since publishing the Heat and Buildings Strategy in 2021.
And this week’s consultation echoed the lack of an outright ban, with ministers writing: “The government has set the ambition to end the sale of new and replacement natural gas only boilers from 2035.”
Will hydrogen-ready boilers be safe?
Heating homes with hydrogen was shown to be feasible and safe in September 2021, following the results of the first HyDeploy pilot trial at Keele University.
In the trial, 20% hydrogen was injected and blended into Keele University's existing private gas network, which supplies 30 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties.
Earlier this year, hydrogen-ready boilers were installed at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in what is believed to be the first use of this technology in the NHS.
However, there has been some pushback against hydrogen, with one review concluding that there were still technical difficulties to overcome before it becomes a viable widespread green alternative.
How much will hydrogen-ready boilers cost?
Hydrogen-ready boilers will be sold at the same price as natural gas boilers, as a result of the UK boiler manufacturers ‘price promise’ made in 2021 by the boiler industry’s big four manufacturers (Baxi, Worcester Bosch, Vaillant and Ideal).
The government’s consultation will examine these costs further, with ministers writing. “The government needs confidence that consumers will not face a premium for their purchase.”
A hydrogen-ready boiler could cost up to £2,500 to install on average, according to Boiler Central.
Hydrogen is expected to play a significant role in the decarbonisation of heavy industry and the transport network, and the government wants to utilise hydrogen alongside air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps to help homeowners save on their energy bills and cut their use of fossil fuels.
This is because the main by-product of burning hydrogen gas is water, which represents a way of greening up the gas grid.
The government published its Hydrogen Strategy in 2021, which laid out plans for up to 35% of the UK’s energy consumption to come from hydrogen by 2035.
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Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms.
He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.