Poll: public back clean hydrogen…but not a levy on bills

Poll finds that just a fifth of people (21%) think levies on energy bills should pay for converting the existing gas grid to support hydrogen for home heating.

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By George Smeeton


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As the Government’s Energy Bill is set to be debated again next week in Parliament, new YouGov polling [1] for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found that just a fifth of people (21%) think levies on energy bills should pay for converting the existing gas grid to support hydrogen for home heating. Just one in eight (12%) think levies should support the industrial hydrogen sector.

This compares to half (50%) of people believing levies should support renewable energy projects. Early renewable projects are currently supported by levies, although new wind and solar farms now do not require subsidy. More than a third (36%) of people back levies paying for insulation for low-income households. Less than one in five (18%) said there shouldn’t be a levy on bills.

The polling also found that around three quarters (74%) of people would support the government investing in hydrogen infrastructure in the UK. Renewable energy and clean technology is viewed as the number one sector for creating long-term growth for the UK economy. Nearly half (47%) of people picked this sector compared to around one in five for manufacturing (27%) and financial services (24%). Renewable energy and clean technology is the top sector for both Conservative (41%) and Labour (56%) voters in the 2019 election.

The Government recently announced it would drop the proposal of a £120 annual levy on domestic energy bills to cover the cost of producing hydrogen [2]. When asked if people would support a levy of approximately £100 on the average household energy bill to pay for hydrogen energy infrastructure, around a third (36%) said they would support it, but more (43%) would oppose it. The Energy Bill is expected to set out how the UK’s hydrogen industry can be supported.

Jess Ralston, Energy Analyst from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Experts are clear that hydrogen will likely play only a small role in home heating, if any at all, as heat pumps are much more efficient and leave us less dependent on foreign gas imports. For industrial hydrogen, the public don’t see a levy on bills as the way to get the sector off the ground and it appears that Government has recognised this.

“That said, they clearly see the merits of the UK developing a clean hydrogen industry and the rest of the world including Europe and Australia are already pressing ahead. There will only be a limited supply of hydrogen, so it’s much better used in industries that actually need it – like steel – than for heating where there are already solutions emerging.”

Electric heat pumps have a typical efficiency of around 300%, where every one unit of energy in produces three units of heat. Gas and ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers have an efficiency of around 90% [3], so produce less than one unit of heat for every unit of energy in. Gas and hydrogen boilers also produce air pollution, such as nitrous oxides (NOx) and can be responsible for a fifth of air pollution in some urban areas [4].

According to research, the current gas grid may require upgrades, such as ensuring that pipelines do not allow hydrogen molecules, which are much smaller than natural gas molecules to escape, to run off hydrogen [5]. Households would also need to change appliances, including ‘hydrogen-ready’ gas boilers which would need to be adapted in situ. It has been reported that households would need to drill a 4-inch hole in the ceiling to ensure that hydrogen in the home is safe to use [6].

A recent study has found that 37 indpendent studies have now concluded that there will be no significant role for hydrogen in heating homes [7].

Notes to editors

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,020 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 28th August 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[2] The Times: Hydrogen levy on household energy bills axed

[3] Evergreen Energy, How efficient are heat pumps?

[4] Policy Exchange, Why London needs a boiler scrappage scheme

[5] Imperial College London, A greener gas grid: what are the options?

[6] The Telegraph, Hydrogen boilers might need ‘four-inch holes in walls to prevent explosions’

[7] Hydrogen Insight, A total of 37 independent studies have now concluded there will be no significant role for hydrogen in heating homes

For more information, please contact: George Smeeton, Head of Communiations, email: george.smeeton.eciu.net, tel: 07894 571153