Delay to SGN’s hydrogen trial ‘strengthens case’ for taking heating decision now

The delay to SGN’s hydrogen town trial in Fife bolsters the argument for the government to bring forward its decision on hydrogen’s role in home heating, a leading gas expert has claimed.

The government is currently set to make a decision on hydrogen for home heating in 2026.

However, Keith MacLean, gas expert at consultancy Providence Policy, said that ministers should “bite the bullet” and make a decision now in light of the delay to the H100 Fife project.

As reported by Utility Week last month, SGN will not go live on its flagship H100 hydrogen for heating project in Levenmouth, Fife, Scotland, until next year.

The project, which is due to supply hydrogen to 300 homes in the coastal settlements of Buckhaven and Denbeath, was due to get underway this year.

However, SGN announced that the project is “taking longer than planned” due to supply chain and procurement challenges, with around two-thirds of a new 8.2-mile network built so far.

MacLean said that there is now little point in ministers putting off the decision on whether hydrogen will be used in domestic heating until 2026.

“Quite a lot has been learned already” about the technical aspects of hydrogen in homes as a result of work already been done through the Hy4Heat programme and overseas trials, he said: “An awful lot of what now needs to be proved is not the technical or economic case for it, it’s the public case for it.

“Fundamentally, even if it (H100) went ahead, it wouldn’t change the position. I don’t think it will prove anything more with a few hundred houses than what we’ve already done with a handful of houses.

“Lots of pieces of the jigsaw are already there and I don’t think there’s going to be any new big surprises about how hydrogen performs. The big learning is about how to actually make it happen.”

The questions that most need answering are “far more fundamental” around the degree of compulsion on households required to deliver the low carbon transition the UK’s housing stock, MacLean said: “Are they going to bite the bullet and say, we have to make this work or are they going to continue with the pretence that they can just leave it up to the market, dangle a few carrots here and a few very weak sticks there and expect it to happen.”

The delay to the H100 trial “strengthens the case” for not waiting until 2026 to make a decision on whether hydrogen should be used in home heating, said Bean Beanland, director for growth & external affairs at the Heat Pump Federation

“This cannot be used as an excuse to delay the fundamental decision,” Beanland added.

Waseem Hanif, spokesperson for SGN, said the company is in “close consultation” with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and Ofgem to ensure the H100 trial will “successfully inform” the government’s 2026 hydrogen heating policy decision.

He said: “H100 Fife is already providing the evidence required for the UK Government including important data around customer interest, hydrogen conversion and operations.

“Once the trial goes live, the project will continue to provide regular evidence including feedback from participants and the demonstration of an end-to-end hydrogen system.”

A spokesperson for Hydrogen UK also said the delay to the H100 trial “will not impact” the 2026 decision on domestic home heating.

“The H100 trial is a world-first project and is already playing an important role in providing evidence for the UK government.

“ Despite delays in Fife, the UK government should collaborate with other countries like the Netherlands and Japan, also conducting similar trials, utilising their findings.”

MP Peter Grant, whose Glenrothes constituency covers the H100 project, said that while the delay to project was “disappointing”, SGN’s progress and “firm commitments” to delivering it was “welcome”.

The Scottish National Party MP said: “I remain convinced that the use of hydrogen in both domestic and non-domestic settings can be a key factor in delivering secure, sustainable and affordable energy to Scotland’s householders and businesses.

“I will continue to press the UK government to ensure that through projects such as H100 we can explore the full potential of this clean and genuinely renewable fuel.”