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Boris Johnson's plan to increase hydrogen addiction may not be feasible.


Gas boilers will be banned in all new buildings within just three years. Experts today determined that the goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year under Boris Johnson's ten-point green plan is unlikely to be met.

The boiler ban comes two years earlier than previously planned and is part of the "future house standard," which means that all new homes must have low-carbon alternatives such as electric heat pumps.

On a day of confusion yesterday, the 2023 deadline was removed from an official document within an hour of being contacted by the Times about it, with officials blaming a "technical error" for the inclusion.

However, a government source then confirmed that the 2025 ban was being brought forward, saying, “It shouldn't be in there. There hasn't been any stakeholder engagement yet, but it's definitely the plan. & # 39;

Last year the government proposed banning the sale of gas boilers from 2025, but admitted concerns about supply issues with 30,000 heat pumps currently installed annually – an annual target of 300,000 new homes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for photos with a branded electric taxi at Octopus Energy in London on October 5th

Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for photos with a branded electric taxi at Octopus Energy in London on October 5th

A graphic showing the ten different areas of Boris Johnson's 10-point environmental plan announced today

A graphic showing the ten different areas of Boris Johnson's 10-point environmental plan announced today

Experts say the heat pumps can cost up to £ 10,000, including installation, and green subsidies are not enough to make people switch.

Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy at University College London, said: “I suspect that under current guidelines we will not get anywhere near 600,000 heat pumps a year.

Hydrogen in the household: fear of flammable and odorless fuel

According to the Boiler Guide, hydrogen boilers would work similarly to their gas equivalents.

They would be installed in the same way and look similar when connected to the gas network. The Boiler Guide says: "Only a handful of components, such as the flame detector and the burner, would have to be replaced to be equivalent to hydrogen."

An article on the website states that production is “not cheap” and warns that it can be carbon emitting.

There are also warnings about the volatility of hydrogen, which can lead to explosions and leaks that are difficult to detect.

The Boiler Guide says: “Due to its high energy content, hydrogen gas is a highly flammable and volatile substance that makes it a risky fuel.

“Hydrogen is incredibly flammable, which makes it a dangerous fuel if not handled properly. Hydrogen doesn't smell either, so sensors are required to detect leaks. & # 39;

“It would make sense if the government introduced a ban on gas boilers for a certain year in the future, as it did on gasoline and diesel cars.

“Then people would be more likely to switch to them and this could increase the number of companies accredited to install heat pumps and expand the production of the pumps.

"The Green Homes Grant should also be extended after March 2022 to support lower-income homes."

Currently, only around 250,000 buildings in the UK have heat pumps, including commercial buildings, while around 22 million have gas central heating.

The Green Homes Grant offers up to £ 10,000 off the cost of a heat pump for low-income households and up to £ 5,000 for richer households.

But all of the outstanding costs and the interruption of waiting a day or two for installation can put off people whose current system is already working well.

The pumps, which look like air conditioning on the outside of buildings, suck energy from the air and use it to heat a house. They are more efficient than fossil fuel technologies.

However, to work efficiently, they operate at lower water temperatures, which means families will have to buy larger radiators to get the same heat they get from a boiler.

Experts fear that people will not dispose of their systems voluntarily and support a ban on gas boilers.

Dr. Jan Rosenow from the think tank for clean energy in the framework of the Regulatory Assistance Project said: “If we only rely on relatively small government subsidies, we will not install 600,000 heat pumps per year.

“It won't convince people who are completely satisfied with their energy supply to switch.

"But if people couldn't buy gas boilers, it would spur demand much faster, much like how electric cars will take off after the announcement of the gasoline and diesel car ban from 2030."

Boris Johnson's plan to increase the UK's reliance on hydrogen for home heating has met with concerns from experts who fear that it "may not be feasible" if rolled out nationwide – amid concerns that fossil fuel companies are dying to do "Overselling" energy.

Hydrogen boilers could be a staple of UK households by 2030 - but that would mean replacing 25 million existing units

Hydrogen boilers could be a staple of UK households by 2030 – but that would mean replacing 25 million existing units

The Prime Minister announced a 10 point green industrial revolution that would create 250,000 jobs and cut the UK's carbon emissions.

How the move to net zero will change our homes

Efforts to zero emissions to tackle the climate crisis will transform every part of life by 2030, including the way we live in our homes.

Some of the changes won't be as obvious: Renewable energies like offshore wind are increasingly helping to power our homes, but we can't tell when we're running our lights and appliances or charging appliances.

Devices and lights are very energy efficient and can even be "intelligent". For example, the freezer could be plugged into the mains so that it can be switched off briefly to meet the increasing demand during a World Cup game.

Homes will have smart meters that can encourage people to use electricity when supplies are high, or could even do so automatically, for example to charge electric cars.

Households with driveways and cars are likely to have a charging station on the outside of their home to power their electric vehicle.

But it's about heating, keeping homes warm and even cooking where households will most obviously feel the transition to a carbonless world.

Tackling climate change means an end to the carbon-polluting gas boilers that heat most UK homes, as well as the oil boilers that some off-grid homes currently use.

It is most likely that they will be replaced by heat pumps or district heating networks that direct hot water into underground pipes to bring heat into households from a central source, e.g. B. from a waste incineration plant or even from former mines.

Heat pumps are installed in individual houses and run on electricity. They work the other way around like a refrigerator to generate heat from the outside air or sometimes from the floor and provide heat and hot water in the house.

Air source heat pumps look like air conditioning on the outside of buildings and may require larger radiators or underfloor heating to function optimally.

You work more efficiently in buildings that are energy efficient and well insulated. As a result, homes, including old Victorian draughty homes, need to be remodeled to make them cozier.

There is also the potential to replace gas boilers with hydrogen or even a hybrid of hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, but they also need efficient homes to reduce the need for hydrogen that needs to be produced.

Regardless of what type of house people live in and how hot it may be, by the 2030s it has to be much cozier than many today, with double or triple glazing, draft protection and a high level of attic and wall insulation.

This could include exterior wall insulation on the outside of real estate, which may change the look of homes.

Just as we have to let the gas run out for heating, we no longer have to use it for cooking, with the gas stoves being replaced by induction stoves.

And with climate change already affecting life in the UK, with more intense heat waves and an increased risk of flooding, homes may be increasingly equipped with measures to protect against these risks in the 2030s.

They can range from tinted windows and trees that are planted outdoors for shade in hot conditions, to removable air-brick covers and treated wood floors to prevent flooding and damage from flooding in vulnerable areas.

One of the most ambitious elements of the proposal is the plan to produce five gigawatts of hydrogen by 2030 – and even hope to heat an entire city with the low-carbon fuel by the end of the decade.

The proposal calls for 25 million gas boilers to be replaced with hydrogen or hydrogen-ready boilers over the next 20 years – at a rate of 600,000 per year by 2028.

External pipelines that deliver the hydrogen to households and boilers need to be changed because hydrogen is a less dense gas – and is often compressed and stored under high pressure so that it has sufficient energy content for processes.

Scientists, however, have expressed doubts about how effective hydrogen could be as a replacement, warning that the government could be "swept away".

Dr. Richard Lowes of the University of Essex warned, “Achieving a sustainable heating system requires rapid and extensive interventions. It's a big challenge and there is simply no time to delay.

& # 39; We are sure that decarbonising the heating sector will be extremely difficult, but it is possible to use known technologies. The idea that the gas network can simply be converted to hydrogen is extremely uncertain from both a cost and a technical perspective.

Dr. Lowes warned the government that "low-carbon gas, including hydrogen, may not prove viable on a large scale".

Speaking to the FT this week, he warned not to let yourself be carried away by the possibilities of hydrogen.

The Unversity of Exeter warned companies "with existing fossil fuel concerns overdoing the idea of ​​converting the UK's existing gas infrastructure to low-carbon gases such as hydrogen".

In September, David Cebon, a professor of engineering at Cambridge University, told The Times: “There is a lot of science showing that the widespread adoption of hydrogen (instead of electricity) for heating and heavy vehicles is affecting the UK economy, its energy security and safety would affect decarbonization obligations. & # 39;

Natural gas heats the vast majority of UK households, but it contributes around a fifth of the country's CO2 emissions.

There is potential to replace gas boilers with hydrogen or even a hybrid of hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, but they need energy efficient homes to reduce the need for hydrogen that needs to be produced.

Online experts have also warned that heating engineers would need to be retrained to handle hydrogen boilers and test them safely.

Tim Harwood, who is responsible for hydrogen projects at Northern Gas Networks, which owns local gas networks in North East England, told the Financial Times that much of the potential disruption would depend on how many hydrogen-ready boilers are installed in households when the switch hits.

He said that if the government made these types of boilers mandatory in households, "they can easily be converted to hydrogen when the time comes by replacing just a few small parts and probably interrupting half an hour".

Citizens Advice has also warned that if the change is made, new meters will need to be made to ensure people are billed correctly.

The billing method also needs to be changed to reflect the energy consumption in a house rather than the amount of gas delivered.

Another alternative to gas boilers is heat pumps or district heating networks that can direct hot water into underground pipes to bring heat into households from a central source, e.g. B. from a waste incineration plant or even from former mines.

Heat pumps are installed in individual houses and run on electricity. They work the other way around like a refrigerator to generate heat from the outside air or sometimes from the floor and provide heat and hot water in the house.

Greenpeace UK is also not fully behind the idea of ​​converting heating systems to hydrogen.

Environment group policy leader Rebecca Newsom said today's announcement marks a "turning point in climate action," but warned: "It is a shame the prime minister remains fixated on other speculative solutions like nuclear and fossil fuel hydrogen will not do this. " Get us to zero emissions soon, if at all.

"While there are some significant question marks and gaps, overall this is a huge step forward in addressing the climate emergency."

In his announcement today, Mr. Johnson said: “Although this year has taken a very different course than expected, I have not lost sight of our ambitious plans to move up across the country.

“My ten-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs and make progress towards net zero by 2050.

& # 39; Our green industrial revolution is powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, powered by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and powered by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look to a more prosperous and greener future. & # 39;

STEPHEN GLOVER: It's a noble goal, but why is Boris Johnson launching a great green plan in the middle of a crisis?

Most people's stress levels are pretty high right now. Some are concerned about catching Covid-19. Others fear for their jobs. The uncertainties of Brexit are hovering over us.

We're not even sure if we can celebrate Christmas this year, though there were signs last night that households might mix.

Whatever happens, these are dark times. Is this really the right moment for Boris Johnson to come up with a revolutionary ten-point plan, the most striking aspect of which is that sales of new gasoline and diesel cars will be banned ten years earlier than planned from 2030?

I am sure environmental activists will be satisfied, and I have no doubt that Boris is trying to create the impression that even in the midst of this terrible pandemic, his "bigger picture" whirls away as he ponders the future.

UK Labor Party's main opposition leader Keir Starmer (center), speaking as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, attends PMQs remotely on November 18 via a Zoom video call

UK Labor Party's main opposition leader Keir Starmer (center), speaking as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, remotely joins PMQs on November 18 via a Zoom video call

charges

Perhaps we should be grateful for someone peeking over the horizon, but I fear my main feeling is that this out of date announcement has not been properly thought through and is unlikely to be deliverable.

And I say this as someone who, like most people, would be delighted if Britain were a cleaner and less polluted country – as long as that highly desirable outcome can be achieved without impoverishing the country and putting an unbearable burden on the people who are already under pressure .

Why is it suddenly considered practical to ban new gasoline and diesel cars in 2030? If the rules start early this year, there will only be nine years and a month to make a huge change.

Electric vehicles are bought in greater numbers, but they make up less than 1 percent of all cars on the UK's roads. This is not surprising as they are significantly more expensive (although cheaper to drive) than gasoline and diesel vehicles, and can cover a much shorter distance on a single charge.

If you're not lucky enough to park off-road, it can be difficult to charge an electric car at home. Many people will depend on charging stations on the street – of which there are currently only a few.

An electric car will be charged in a street charging port in London on Wednesday 18th November. Britain says it will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars by 2030

An electric car will be charged in a street charging port in London on Wednesday 18th November. Britain says it will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars by 2030

It is true that the government has promised to spend £ 1.3 billion on new charging points, but whether that amount will put enough of it in the right places by 2030 is unclear.

I also assume that over the next decade, as production volumes increase, electric cars could become cheaper and mileage on a single charge could gradually increase.

The fact remains that from today's perspective, electric cars are far from ideal. They're in the works, and by 2030, many people are likely to find them less convenient and more expensive than what the environmental lobby derives as fossil fuel vehicles.

Nor is it likely that the government will have the resources to provide subsidies for the purchase of electric cars, as it does in affluent Norway. On the contrary, because it can lose billions of pounds in fuel taxes, it may well charge drivers for using roads that the taxpayer has already paid to build. The less wealthy could be punished.

Am i a misery Maybe a little. I just think that arbitrarily changing the data from 2040 to 2030 when there is no infrastructure and the shortcomings of electric cars remain unsolved is a touch of ivory tower thinking.

Similarly unrealistic is the plan to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, although these are many times more expensive than the boilers they are supposed to replace and only 30,000 were installed last year.

With the exception of Norway (overflowing with money, ironically produced by North Sea oil), other countries are not demanding such imminent sacrifices from their citizens.

The British Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a screen (right) virtually take part in the Prime Minister's questions

The British Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a screen (right), virtually participate in the Prime Minister's questions

Many of these countries cause far higher greenhouse gas emissions than the UK, which is responsible for a tiny 1.2 percent of total global emissions. The government cannot single-handedly save the world, but it can single-handedly disadvantage the British people and undermine the economy.

It would be foolish to deny that the green plan contains some bright features. As the cost of wind energy is falling, it makes sense to build more turbines – as long as they are off the coast and don't spoil the landscape.

However, the wind does not always blow and therefore alternative energy sources are needed. One wise endeavor is to invest in developing small nuclear reactors that may produce electricity cheaper than a massive nuclear power plant being built at Hinckley Point.

Nor would anyone argue with the proposal to plant nearly 75,000 acres of trees each year (unless they're ugly conifers) or with the idea of ​​improving insulation in schools and hospitals.

trouble

Yes, there are some great ideas here, some of which, like: B. other offshore wind turbines have already been announced. The question is whether the government can deliver.

The PM is a great source of ideas. Undoubtedly influenced by his fiancée Carrie Symonds, a passionate environmentalist, he is getting greener every day. But will he be able to fulfill these ambitious and largely unworthy plans? There is a practicality problem.

As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson campaigned for cycle paths. Because of me. The problem is that they (like his Labor successor Sadiq Khan, who enthusiastically grabbed this particular baton from him) were intentionally created to punish riders whose main occupation is looking at empty bike lanes as they are stuck in terrible queues .

Johnson, who battled coronavirus infection earlier this year, is self-isolating after being re-exposed to coronavirus

Johnson, who battled coronavirus infection earlier this year, is self-isolating after being re-exposed to coronavirus

Ministers have already allocated £ 2 billion for cycling and walking, and (another example of the sharing of previously announced news) bike lanes are part of Boris' plan. But do they always have to be designed in such a way that the drivers are as difficult as possible?

Then there is the broader question of the prime minister's ability to come up with a revolutionary plan that will challenge the most capable governments (not that we have had many of them recently).

Damn it

During the pandemic, the government barely built a reputation for leadership. On Tuesday, the National Audit Office released a damn report pointing to the government's cronyism and ineptitude when it squirted out £ 18 billion on PPE and other equipment procurement.

The desire to "create and support up to 250,000 UK jobs" through the Ten Point Green Plan is clearly worthy, but depends on identifying the right entrepreneurial ventures and ensuring that the public money entrusted to them is not get wasted. Governments are generally bad at picking winners.

My fear of this great plan – although I repeat that there are good things in it – is that it has not been properly considered and has neglected the practical realities of people's everyday lives.

Most of us would love to drive an electric car if it were just as effective and not more expensive. We'd happily swap a boiler for a heat pump if we were sure we wouldn't be out of our pockets after a government grant.

But Boris Johnson asks us – or is he forcing us? – to take him on a journey without maps, on which we could all get lost. And the strangest thing is that he does this in those worst moments when we have far more pressing matters on our minds.

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