Alan Whitehead has branded full electrification of the domestic heating system as a “fantasy”.
Speaking in a Labour party conference fringe meeting on the transition to hydrogen, the shadow energy minister said the scale and scope of the UK’s embedded gas infrastructure ruled out a wholesale switchover to electric heating.
“The amount of electricity we will need in order to replace what is going into heat at the moment in terms of energy would mean we would have to the triple the capacity we’ve got.”
But Whitehead said the wholesale replacement of natural gas to hydrogen is “not likely”, adding that injecting a number of different green gases into the system is more feasible.
Hydrogen could also play a role as a “seasonal” method of storing renewable electricity during times of the year when there is surplus generation, he said: “If you convert electricity into hydrogen for the purpose of storing electricity on a seasonal basis and reconverting back into electricity would give you inter-seasonal shift.”
Whitehead said the amount of carbon dioxide generated by the steam methane reformation (SMR), currently the cheapest method of creating hydrogen, means it delivers little benefit in terms of decarbonisation.
However, he said that it could be adopted as an interim measure in tandem with carbon capture and storage in order to get the mass-scale production of hydrogen off the ground while the less greenhouse gas emitting electrolysis technique is developed.
Simon Fairman of Cadent backed Whitehead over the interim rollout of SMR.
“You might have to start with SMR but the market will drive to lowest carbon solutions and you wouldn’t finish with SMR”.