Energy Minister Claire Coutinho has canceled a controversial trial of hydrogen to heat homes in the Yorkshire coastal town of Redcar after growing opposition from residents there.
The trial would have seen all homes in the trial area have their gas central heating removed, to be replaced with either a hydrogen boiler or an electric alternative.
But on Thursday the government announced that the trial would no longer go ahead, casting doubt on the idea of hydrogen ever being used to heat homes in the UK.
Unlike the methane we burn in our gas boilers, hydrogen does not emit carbon when burned, leading some to tout it as a direct trade-off for how we heat our homes in a net zero future.
The problem is that hydrogen currently needs a large amount of renewable electricity to be created in an environmentally friendly way – by using renewable electricity to split hydrogen from water in a process called electrolysis.
Many researchers point out that it is therefore much more efficient to use the green power directly to power alternatives such as heat pumps.
When asked earlier this month, Energy Secretary Lord Callanan told Sky’s Climate Show Tom Heap that hydrogen “will not play a major role in home heating”.
In the announcement, the government says it will still look at evidence from a hydrogen heating trial in Fife, as well as others in Europe, before making a final decision on the matter in 2026.
But with the government backing a ban on boilers – including those that can burn hydrogen – from new-build homes in England from 2025, and generous subsidies already being offered for heat pumps, it now looks much more likely that these appliances will be the technology for choices about heating our homes for decades to come.