Andrew Willshire

Why are the Greens so opposed to the hydrogen economy?

(Photo: Getty)

As the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow approaches, it is only to be expected that charities, lobbyists, special interest groups and an alphabet soup of international bodies will attempt to steer the conversation in their direction.

The IEA (International Energy Agency, not to be confused with the Institute for Economic Affairs think tank) has published its contribution this week, ‘Net Zero by 2050’, which contains more than 400 milestones that have to be met if net zero carbon emissions is to be achieved by 2050.

Many of the policy suggestions are sensible, and many are inevitable, e.g. economies of scale and advances in technology will mean that wind and solar electricity generation will naturally make up a larger proportion of the generation mix. On the other hand, some suggestions require frankly heroic assumptions regarding both individuals and governments.

In this country, one of the bigger fights will be in transitioning people towards new methods of heating their homes. In a slightly over-excited fashion, the BBC have reported one of the IEA’s recommendations as ‘Ban new gas boilers from 2025 to reach net zero’. Given that 80 per cent of British homes have a gas boiler, and about 1.7m are sold each year, this would seem to be somewhat ambitious. In fact, the report suggests that it is only boilers which solely burn natural gas that should be phased out. Those which can also burn hydrogen are described as ‘zero-carbon ready’ and are fine, provided that the gas network itself can be converted to run on hydrogen, and that enough hydrogen can be produced.

Currently most hydrogen produced is so-called ‘grey hydrogen’, made from natural gas but which produces carbon dioxide emissions in the process. If the carbon is captured in the process it is called ‘blue hydrogen’.

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