Hydrogen Blending Could See Energy Bills Rise by 16 Percent: Study

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
January 27, 2022Updated: January 27, 2022

Mixing hydrogen into existing gas supplies, an emission-cutting strategy being considered by the UK government, could cause household energy bills to rise by 16 percent, a new study has suggested.

The British government said last year that it would work with industry to “assess the safety, technical feasibility, and cost effectiveness of mixing 20 percent hydrogen into the existing gas supply.”

It said doing so “could deliver a 7 percent emissions reduction on natural gas.”

But analysis from German research institute Fraunhofer IEE found that, if these plans go ahead, it could push up energy bills by 16 percent for homes, and by as much as 43 percent for industrial end-users.

Hydrogen is significantly more expensive than natural gas. In a report (pdf) published on Jan. 27, the institute said, “Blending, even at low percentages, constitutes a sub-optimal pathway for the deployment of hydrogen and should be avoided in favour of policy instruments, which can deliver hydrogen to specific sectors.”

Commenting on the findings, David Cebon, a professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge University, said, “The UK’s plans to blend 20 percent hydrogen into the natural gas grid will only increase costs for both industrial consumers and households.”

“The government should take note of the findings of this important research. Particularly during a gas price crisis, we should not risk escalating energy costs,” he said.

The UK government sees hydrogen as a new energy source that is critical to meeting its targets of reaching “net zero” emissions by 2050 and cutting emissions by 78 percent by 2035.

In August 2021, the government launched its first “Hydrogen Strategy” (pdf) aimed at creating “a thriving low carbon hydrogen sector in the UK over the next decade and beyond.”

It said, “By 2030, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonising polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, HGV lorries, and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels.”

The government’s own analysis suggests that 20–35 percent of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050 could be hydrogen-based.

But the German report pours cold water on the UK government’s ambitious vision for hydrogen-based energy.

UK consumers are already under immense pressure from rapidly rising energy prices. Another rise in energy costs is expected in April as suppliers are due to increase prices after the cost of gas in wholesale markets rose by more than 500 percent in less than a year.

Hydrogen can be used to run boilers, and it does not release anything other than water vapour when it burns.

But an overwhelming majority of hydrogen is produced from natural gas, a process which emits carbon.

PA Media contributed to this report.