back to article England's village green hydrogen dream in tatters

A second planned trial to provide hydrogen for home heating was this week officially cancelled in England, a government minister has confirmed. Claire Coutinho, secretary of state for energy security and net zero, said the pilot in Redcar, in the north east of England, "cannot go ahead as designed, as the main source of …

  1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Correction

    secretary of state for energy security and net zero

    secretary of state for energy security, net zero and hot air

    1. Steve Button Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Correction

      Just trying to work out which Led Zeppelin album to put on. Not sure why, but something has brought that to front of mind.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Which Led Zep Album?

        Easy...

        Volume 4. Hydrogen is a sure 'fire' way for more people to take their own 'Stairway to Heaven'.

        Hydrogen in any shape or form leaks. Because it is the smallest sized atom making perfect seals that work year in, year out is next to impossible.

        You are gonna need a 'Whole Lotta Love" to make it viable. The slighest 'Communication Breakdown' can be catastrophic. Then the 'Levee will break' and there will be tears all around.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

          Sure, it leaks out of things. But that includes "houses" - even when it escapes from pipework it doesn't hang around for long. Being lighter (molecular weight 2) than air (average 28.8) unlike propane (30) helps a lot too.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

            It does tend to detonate rather easily though, over a much wider range of concentrations than methane aka "natural gas". And there have been an oddly high number of " gas explosions" in the news recently. I wonder if any are related to the addition of hydrogen to the gas supply.

            1. WonkoTheSane
              Headmaster

              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

              Hydrogen has not yet been added to the gas supply, only increased consumer prices.

            2. CountCadaver Silver badge

              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

              I'd only worry if they were suggesting swapping to acetylene which has a massive range between lower explosive limit and upper explosive limit

              (Basically concentrations where it can go BOOM)

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

          "Because it is the smallest sized atom making perfect seals that work year in, year out is next to impossible."

          Actually, He is smaller. H likes to live as a pair while Helium is happy as a single atom.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

            It is still smaller. Two protons vs two protons and two neutrons. And while it "prefers" to form H2, it isn't particularly stable in that configuration and will preferentially bond with almost anything else, which leads to hydrogen embrittling.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

              Why don't you fg check before writing stuff in domains you are not familiar with? Are you still imagining atoms like little reductions of the solar system?

              KINETIC DIAMETER of He: 260 pm

              KINETIC DIAMETER of H2: 289 pm

              KINETIC DIAMETER of CH4: 380 pm

              1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                I can accept being wrong on the particulars, without resorting to insults. Regardless, the issue of hydrogen embrittlement is still a real thing, which isn't an issue with helium, and as a result of this, hydrogen does - despite the superficial size differences - permeate rubber and metal barriers more effectively than helium in a lot of cases. It's also something of a moot comparison; we can't use helium as a replacement for natural gas, so there's no expectation of having to contain it within a national gas transportation grid.

                1. martinusher Silver badge

                  Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                  In your defense as well I'd mention that the methane distribution infrastructure is well developed and the technology is stable and well understood. This doesn't mean you don't get the occasional accident (i.e. explosion) but we've learned to live with it. Hydrogen is a new technology so essentially you're asking everyone to rip out the existing infrastructure and replace it. Hardly carbon neutral.

                  Its the same with heat pumps. These are really A/C units but with the circulation set backwards, as it were, to heat inside and cool outside. They are very efficient. On paper. Until you have to replace existing infrastructure (including the entire domestic heating system) with something that requires significantly more maintenance and Joule for Joule costs a lot more to run.

                  I'm all for Going Green but, honestly, I do think that a lot of people, not just politicians (but especially that witches brew of self aggrandizing ignoramuses), really don't think things through. Everyone suffers as a result.

                  1. Azium

                    Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                    Heat pumps don't cost more joule for joule to run.

                    They are more expensive to buy and more costly to maintain. As they become more mainstream those prices, may come down.

                    But joule for joule? Comparing joules of energy purchased and joules of energy heating your home, heat pumps win every time.

                    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                      Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                      Heat pumps are great - very efficient

                      My problem is they dont put enough heat out.

                      The heat they do put out is fantastic ecologicaly sound lovely green flavoured heat , but not much of it.

                      If its under 10c outside I dont reckon you're gonna get room temp inside.

                      They presumably have to be backed by a top up system of some sort , which is probably built into it and electric and cocking the stats up.

                      1. John Robson Silver badge

                        Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                        "My problem is they dont put enough heat out."

                        Really - so your problem is that you can't the label on the product?

                        They don't need to be backed up, and they work down to very low temperatures - see their widespread use in the nordics.

                        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                          Yeah having watched a potted history of Heat pumps on "Technology Connections" , a most excellent channel on youtube, that was the impression I'm left with .

                          If you can link me to a heatpump that will suck 30kw of heat out of the outside air/ground I'd love to read the label on it .

                          please note I have very little ground to bury exchangers in.

                          1. Anonymous Coward
                            Anonymous Coward

                            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                            I think there's plenty of ground source heat pumps of sufficient size available for for example farm use. Viessmann Vitocal 350-G (or Pro) was the first that came up in a search, but I don't think 30 kW is somehow outlandish.

                            You would probably need pretty deep boreholes.

                            Not sure if I am making some kind of translation error, as I live in a Nordic country.

                            1. John Robson Silver badge

                              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                              "Not sure if I am making some kind of translation error, as I live in a Nordic country."

                              The 'error' is merely that there is no possible heat pump which will satisfy some people.

                          2. John Robson Silver badge

                            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                            Have you actually done any calculations to come up with your 30kW requirement?

                            I live in a multiply extended 1940s semi, and a mere 6kW of gas input (metered data) will keep this house warm down to substantially negative (coldest of the cold snaps last winter) external temperatures (so I probably only need ~5.5kW of heat).

                            That still leaves us with several hours overnight when that input wasn't used for heating, and the same heat pump can therefore heat a hot water cylinder.

                            Assuming you're just reading the label of your excessively overpowered boiler then: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005006140530856.html

                            No - there is no way in hell I trust that 30kW figure, nor would I buy it anyway.

                            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                              to be fair i was just going off the rating of the "torpedo style" space heater i use to keep my garage warm , which isnt that well insultaed.

                              1. John Robson Silver badge

                                Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                                Yeah - most heaters are massively over powered compared with the actual heat load needed - meaning they tend to short cycle and lose even more efficiency. Though a poorly insulated garage could probably eat up as much heat as you could throw at it.

                  2. Filippo Silver badge

                    Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                    >[heat pumps] Joule for Joule costs a lot more to run

                    That is only true because we ignore the externalities of combustion.

                    Any process that produces waste is going to be massively cheaper if you're allowed to just dump the waste into the environment. But that's generally not considered a good reason to allow it. You want to run a process that produces waste (nuclear, chemical, whatever), you have to handle the waste somehow. Except for burning fossil fuels. That waste - just dump it in the atmosphere, free of charge.

                    That little exception is the only reason it's cheaper. From any reasonable point of view, it makes the comparison so unfair it's pointless.

                    1. tip pc Silver badge

                      Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                      You want to run a process that produces waste (nuclear, chemical, whatever), you have to handle the waste somehow. Except for burning fossil fuels. That waste - just dump it in the atmosphere, free of charge.

                      That little exception is the only reason it's cheaper. From any reasonable point of view, it makes the comparison so unfair it's pointless.

                      its currently dark and not windy, where do you think the electric for the heat pumps and electric car charging is coming from at this moment?

                      its not all nuclear or hydro, the rest of it is mostly gas with some coal and some biomass fuel likely drax which is imported wood from the USA.

                      those carbon fuels are ejecting combustion waste & heat into the atmosphere so people can run their heatpumps.

                      when the UK electric grid is emitting 400g+ per kwh a heat pump can be using kwh causing emissions of co2 more than a normal gas boiler so no savings in waste emissions.

                      https://www.yorkshireenergysystems.co.uk/heat-pump-efficiency/#:~:text=A%20heat%20pump%20will%20use,the%20weather%20is%20below%20freezing.

                      1. Filippo Silver badge

                        Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                        A gas boiler emits, and I'm being really optimistic here, 200g per kwh heat. That comes from a Google search, and rounding down a lot.

                        A heat pump can have an average COP of 3.1 in UK weather. That bit of data comes from the very link you provided, btw. Let's be a bit pessimistic and call it 3.

                        If the UK grid emits 400g per kwh electric, as you say, then the heat pump is giving you three kwh heat for those 400g.

                        The gas boiler is giving you one kwh heat for those 200g.

                        1000 / 200 is less than 3000 / 400.

                        By a pretty wide margin, too. And this is being wildly generous to the boiler, slightly stingy to the heat pump, and using the data you provided yourself. The real margin is likely even wider.

                        On top of that, the carbon performance of the heat pump improves with improvements to the grid. The boiler, OTOH, can never improve its carbon performance.

                        1. tip pc Silver badge

                          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                          Selective quoting

                          A heat pump can have an average COP of 3.1 in UK weather. That bit of data comes from the very link you provided, btw. Let's be a bit pessimistic and call it 3.

                          From my link

                          A heat pump will use more energy to produce heat when the ambient temperature is low (say -4°) than when it is moderate (say 10°). So a pump that has a COP of 4/1 at 10° may only have a COP of 2/1 at -4° and so use twice as much energy to run it when the weather is below freezing.

                          It’s currently autumn heading into winter

                          Temperatures will soon be negative with still winds across much of the land.

                          Those heat pumps will soon be running at a cop of just 2, and likely less than that.

                          Gas will still be ~200g kWh.

                          https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/air-source-heat-pump/performance

                          Efficiency Performance

                          The efficiency of a heat pump is measured by their Coefficient of Performance (COP). That is the ratio of heat produced per unit of electricity consumed when pumping the heat. Efficiency performance tends to decrease during periods of severe cold.

                          For comparison, in mild weather COP can be about 4.0, but when the temperature drops to 0°C, the COP can also decline to 2.5. On average, the COP of typical heat pumps has a seasonal variation of about 2.5-2.8. However, there are heat pump models having higher performance in mild climates.

                          When selecting a heat pump, keep in mind that the higher the ratio, the more efficient the unit and the more efficient the heat delivery. A COP value of 3 means that you get 3kWh of heat output for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the pump. Higher COP values represent a heat delivery that is relatively more efficient.

                          For example, a COP value of 4 means that you get 4kWh of heat output for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the pump. Keep in mind, that the COP mentioned by manufacturers is measured under test conditions and you should treat it with caution.

                          1. Filippo Silver badge

                            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                            The 3.1 quoted COP is not a best-case. It's the average in UK weather. It's not darkest January all year round, the average is what you really care about.

                            But, hey, let's go along with what you say. Heat pump manufacturers are all filthy liars, and gas boiler manufacturers always tell the truth. So we should assume that heat pump COP is substantially lower than declared, but we can take the carbon performance of gas boilers at face value, maybe even round it down to 200. That's the gist of what you're saying, right?

                            Fine. I'll take it.

                            Running the math, COP would have to be 2 average before carbon performance drops below the grid. That is 2 as in two. It's what you get at 0°C. Below that, actually, but I'm assuming the manufacturer is a filthy liar. Annual average, not just in January.

                            Is the UK under a glacier and nobody told me?

                            Seriously, just do the math. They are your own numbers. Run them. They take you to the heat pump, all the way.

                            1. James Hughes 1

                              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                              I wonder if "tip pc" is still feeling that burn. Nice work!

                              Shame people like tip pc still have this attitude really. Not sure where they got it from. Perhaps they work for gas boiler manufacturers?

                2. Siberian Hamster

                  Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                  You're correct in stating hydrogen embrittlement is a real thing and a concern for pipeline steels. For clarity, the basic mechanism that occurs is hydrogen dissociates at the steel surface and travels into the outer layer of the steel and takes up an interstitial location in the lattice structure. Some further mechanisms take place that then cause embrittlement but ultimately it has nothing to do with the size of the H2 molecule.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

              "It is still smaller. Two protons vs two protons and two neutrons."

              Yes, but with H2 (the most stable molecule) it's two atoms totaling 2 protons where He is one atom with 2P2N in one nucleus.

          2. Azium

            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

            The atom H is smaller than the atom He. Are you perhaps confusing it with the molecule H2?

            Maybe H on its own is unlikely, but when it's H2 it's no longer an atom.

        3. The other JJ

          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

          'The Song Remains the Same'

        4. stungebag

          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

          Don't know about where you live but I grew up in a place and time where every house had a supply of coal gas, which contains plenty of hydrogen. There were explosions from time to time, but safety systems such as closing the valve when the flame was out were almost non-existent. The biggest problem with col gas was the non-hydrogen part, carbon monoxide, which was used for suicide.

          So the problems of a grid delivering hydrogen should be far from insuperable.

          Not that I'm in favour. Why use electricity to create hydrogen when it's more efficient to just use the electricity directly?

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Which Led Zep Album?

            My understanding was that hydrogen to the home was to replace the gas used in boilers to heat the home, not used to generate electricity locally in the home.

            Not sure how it would replace the gas used to cook things though. While electric hobs are available, I much prefer gas and hydrogen hobs does sound like a spectacularly bad idea.

            1. Rahbut

              Re: Which Led Zep Album?

              But the hydrogen would be created by using electricity... so electricity > hydrogen > heat, instead of electricity > heat.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Which Led Zep Album?

                As opposed to the completely energy free production of fossil fuels, which emerges at a steady rate, completely refined, directly into the UK gas network.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Which Led Zep Album?

          As you say, H2 is quite capable of leaking through the interstices of inch-thick steel pipelines, and definitely through 1mm copper domestic pipework.

          H2 plus trace sulphur and water (which tend to be things found in boilers) equals Sulphuric acid. Rapid corrosion in boilers? Rapid increase in number of insurance claims for explosions.

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Just trying to work out which Led Zeppelin album to put on

        "The Lemon Song"

        Something to do with how they squeeze out the hydrogen...

        1. Ken Shabby

          Re: Just trying to work out which Led Zeppelin album to put on

          "Dazed and Confused", definitely

          1. itzman

            Re: Just trying to work out which Led Zeppelin album to put on

            "When the levee breaks"...Hydrogen scares me almost as much as lithium batteries do.

        2. Jedit Silver badge

          Re: Just trying to work out which Led Zeppelin album to put on

          More like we were sold a lemon.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Correction

      The only thing the UK has net zero in is intelligence in government.

      Unfortunately, they're hardly alone.

      1. Bebu Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Correction

        The only thing the UK has net zero in is intelligence in government.

        Even then that nullity is a vacuum fluctuation.

        The article's image of Bloody Stupid pretty much captures that intellectual blackhole. I believe blackholes do preserve spin which seems apt. The berk looks like a spaggettified blackhole.

        Curiously hydrogen was used for heating in the form of coal gas (H2+CO 1:1) up until the 1960s? (I know in Dunedin, NZ) until LPG and LNG replaced it. The carbon monoxide made gas ovens a fairly effective means of suicide.

      2. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Correction

        Net zero and the reasons for the underlying policy are valid. Bite me if you disagree.

        Concerning the execution of these policies by the incumbent government - atrocious - a money printing exercise rather than the wider consumer and global interest being managed.

        As for the leader of the opposition, while keen on accelerating response, labour are also pretty atrocious on their stated policies for execution.

        When the choice is a rock and a hard place it's not a hard choice, it's no choice whatsoever.

    3. The man with a spanner

      Re: Correction

      You mock

      Hot air is a valuable form of heating.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Correction

        "Hot air is a valuable form of heating."

        While what politicians spew is often called "hot" air, it's only slightly above ambient and completely useless. Not enough delta-T.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Correction

          Toxic, too.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Correction

            "Toxic, too."

            With a faint whiff of eggs.

  2. xyz Silver badge

    The EU...

    Says it'll have its Portugal through Spain, France and onto Germany Hydrogen pipe up flowing by 2030. Meanwhile in a "world class" enclave in Whitehall a cabinet minister bullshits.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: The EU...

      The EU says a lot of things. Different flag, same scoundrels.

    2. Catkin Silver badge

      Re: The EU...

      Are you suggesting that Boris was right about hydrogen (but simply didn't pursue it properly) or that the EU are wrong to be pursuing it at all?

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: The EU...

        To me, the EU nations’ plan shows evidence that they looked into how Hydrogen could actually work in reality, have planned a large-scale bulk distribution pipeline for the gas to allow it to be sent efficiently from where it’s cheap to make to where it’s needed to be burned by electricity generators, and they are now proceeding with building that, even if it will take nearly a decade to complete.

        In contrast, the UK’s plan of trying to feed Hydrogen gas into an existing infrastructure (whose state of maintenance is largely unknown) that was designed for natural gas to allow it to be burned domestically for heating has all the hallmarks of a plan conceived simply to show “something” was being done before the next election comes around.

        1. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: The EU...

          1. The people want us to do something!

          2. We'll do this half-arsed thing!

          3. Oh dear, it's not so good!

          4. Never mind, let's go back to the thing supplied by our party donors!

        2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: The EU...

          > To me, the EU nations’ plan shows evidence that they looked into how Hydrogen could actually work in reality, have planned a large-scale bulk distribution pipeline for the gas to allow it to be sent efficiently from where it’s cheap to make to where it’s needed to be burned by electricity generators, and they are now proceeding with building that, even if it will take nearly a decade to complete.

          This, exactly this.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The EU...

          The whole hydrogen crap is just subsidy harvester's dream come true. Look at most of the advocates for "green hydrogen", billionaires looking to siphon more taxpayer funds into their own pockets. The round-trip efficiency of hydrogen is woeful, 30-40% for power production and much worse than a heat pump for heating purposes. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is not your friend and never will be.

          The EU's plan shows no evidence that they looked into how it could work in reality but rather how much the vested interests want to be seen as doing something. The EU has never be short of subsidies or their associated harvesters.

  3. TrevorH

    It should also be noted that the vast majority of homes in cities in the UK cannot use individual heat pumps due to lack of space and/or noise from the fan units. If you live in a terraced street with no garden, where do you put your heat pipes? There are hand-wavy vague and untested plans for utility companies to install street-wide pipe networks under roads and pavements but so far nothing concrete (no pun intended) about how this would function nor how much it would cost. To meet the 2050 deadline they would need to be converting 20,000 properties a *week* to heatpumps. I suspect the current conversion rate is more likely closer to 20 a week than 20,000!

    1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

      Also there's different use cases - I don't have my heating on to maintain a temp (infact I don't even have a thermostat on the heating), when it gets too cold I turn it on for a while. I can measure my heating use in a year in a few tens of hours. This is also almost the worse case for a heat pump.

      So if I switched to a heat pump, I'd have to change how I use my heating to a model that will use a massively larger amount of energy then I do now.

      1. Steve Button Silver badge

        It sounds like you DO have a thermostat. It's YOU. And you've got it set very low.

        Personally I'm shivering when my office gets below 19 deg C. When it hits 21 I take off the 2nd jumper.

        Either way, neither of us want a heat hump.

        1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

          I close the windows when it gets to 16C...

          Funnily, my house was marked down on it's energy report when I had my PV system installed for not having a smart thermostat. Seems having your heating maintain a temp/etc is more energy efficient then having the heating turned off. You'd think not having it on would be the more efficient option...

          1. Martin hepworth

            they also get droppedd down if you dont put in the ashp make/model correctly.

            this is an issue of the surveyor not he house

            1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

              What does the make/model of an air sourced heat pump have to do with a photo-voltaic solar array?

              Hint: nothing.

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          19? It's 19 at work and I find it unbearable.

          It's currently 12C in my bedroom and about 7C in the kitchen. That's good enough for winter.

          At about 5C in the kitchen, it's time to put on a light jacket or maybe upgrade the sweater to a wooly one. The main problem is I cook with a butane camping stove (the main cooker needs new pipes and pressure regulator and stuff and for the amount that I fry stuff I really can't be arsed to sort all that out) and butane doesn't cope as well with the cold as I do.

          This week, it's been a bit rainy but 10 outside. Perfectly pleasant to go for walks along the edges of the fields. I can even open the kitchen window for a while, let the warm in. ;)

          1. Steve Button Silver badge

            I'm literally sitting here with the alarm clock saying it's 20.2 and I'm wearing a vest, long sleeved top, cardigan + thick jumper. That's on top. Got nothing on the bottom half, perhaps that's why I'm still cold. ;-)

            Sorry, I'll get the mind bleach.

            This reminds me of the great Cambridge Office Heating Wars of 2013 (you all know who you are) where a few people would sit in a short sleeved shirt with a desk fan blowing (I'm looking at you Other Steve), and the rest would have a hat, coat and scarf. A more innocent time. No Trump. No Brexit. No Covid. No Culture Wars.

            1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

              We've had our Office Heating Wars in London too, but the fans were not for cooling, they were for deflecting the air con draught towards other coworkers.

              1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

                My internal thermostat is completely broken. I had the heating turned up to 23°C the other day and was still all "bloody hell, it's brass monkeys in here"; I seem to have warmed up a bit since, but I'm also reminded of days working in London where what passed for summer could still be unbearable and I'd go and lurk in the computer room to cool off. By "lurk" I mean lie on the floor and not care if anyone is looking.

          2. sitta_europea Silver badge

            "...It's currently 12C in my bedroom and about 7C in the kitchen. That's good enough for winter. ..."

            You obviously don't have a wife.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              re: You obviously don't have a wife.

              Especially one who comes from Russia where they seal up their houses for the winter and heat them to 25C+.

              The occupants will not be seen dead in a jumper or other wooly top inside the house.

              My SWIMBO who hails from Siberia is slowly starting to become used to the damp, cold UK after 30+ years.

              1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
                Trollface

                You cold-hearted bastard. Shame on you for imposing UK weather on a poor Siberian woman !

                1. heyrick Silver badge

                  I think the big problem here is dry cold versus wet cold.

                  A Mongolian women at work says she feels worse here when it's "about freezing" than back home where it was something like minus forty. The dampness apparently makes even a little bit of cold go right through you.

                  I guess it's what we're used to. Minus forty sounds insufferable to me...

                  1. a pressbutton

                    The naked Neanderthal

                    A recent book by a french paleoanthropologist called ludovic slimak

                    190 pages in 1 paragraph:

                    After 40 years of research we know Neanderthals lived all over the place including above the arctic circle across siberia and down to the Med, they did not think like humans, did not have things (tools / clothes / jewelery) in the same way as humans. We almost certainly wiped them out. Not much else.

                    One point he made was that humans can live in a wide range of conditions with not much artificial support.

                    One still, dry night I was out looking at the aurora north of kittle in shorts sandals and a t shirt for 20m before realising it was -26c and running inside, only because I saw the number - i wasnt feeling cold.

                    Having said that it is 15c here and in a long sleeve t shirt thats just right.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    I'm Scottish and I've said much the same on numerous occasions. A clear, generally dry winter's day a bit below freezing is usually far more tolerable than a damp and windy one that's technically several degrees warmer.

                    Then again, I'm on- and used to- the east cost which is generally much drier. The west coast is *much* wetter- especially in the highlands- and far closer to the "endless rain" stereotype of Scotland it no doubt contributes to.

                    I remember my Mum telling me that the people in the coastal village in the northwest highlands she stayed in for a couple of years- and who were presumably used to this- actually *preferred* it overcast and damp in winter to crisp, clear freezing weather. Urgh.

                    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

                      -- generally dry --

                      This is the important bit, not so much for feeling cold as for not falling over. We (Scottish Highlands) just a few days of rain in the night, skating surfaces in the morning. I joined in the general merriment by going over twice on the local golf course (whilst walking the dog in the dark not playing that silly game).

                  3. itzman

                    Wet air is actually warmer.

                    |The rate of evaporation of sweat is massively greater in dry air. I can tolerate 50°C in a dry desert but am suffering in tropical damp heat of 35°C.

                    In winter it is the wind and the low *absolute* humidity that punishes.

                    I think the issue with people from cold countries was highlighted by my niece, who moved to te UK from Sweden at one point. There was snow on the ground and it was -5 °C but I dressed in simply a T shirt and IIRC a fleece. And drove to see her...

                    'Where is your winter coat?'

                    'Don't need one - 50 yards from the car to your door isn't going to kill me'

                    And that is it really, in cold climates people expect clothes with several inches of insulation and a windproof outer layer *as a matter of course*. We are more used to milder temperatures so we simply don't bother with all that arctic level crap.

                    And then feel cold as a result

              2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

                Re: re: You obviously don't have a wife.

                25+?

                In Soviet times, it was 30°C minimum!

            2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              I upvoted you but in my household, complete with wife, its the other way round - I'm the one wearing a big thick jumper and she's the one in a short sleeved blouse complaining its to hot at 18C.

              1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
                Devil

                Are you sure that it is not a subtle hint for something else?

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "It's currently 12C in my bedroom and about 7C in the kitchen. That's good enough for winter."

            I think I sleep better in winter when it's a bit cold in my room. I'm slid under a stack of blankets with the second away from me being electric. It makes more sense to just heat me rather than the whole house. I have electric heat in the bathroom I turn on when I shower.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I can't really see how you avoid mold if you don't keep the inside temperatures at at least 15C. Of course, if you have a separate shower facility you can avoid excessive humidity?

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              "I can't really see how you avoid mold if you don't keep the inside temperatures at at least 15C. Of course, if you have a separate shower facility you can avoid excessive humidity?"

              I live in the desert. Algae is an issue, but not so much mold.

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      In top of which, installing a heat pump, due to the way they're being used, would require replacing all of the existing central heating pipework with larger diameter pipes and all of the existing rads with much bulkier ones, in order to compensate for the much cooler temperatures that the system will operate at.

      What is always glossed over, in this push for heat pumps, is that they can't be a drop-in replacement for a hot water boiler; using them as such is a very poor use of the technology. Why are we proposing to use hot air to warm up water, which then heats up the air again, when we could just use the air directly? But then, that would require the admission that a "heat pump" is just a crippled HVAC system, which would then require them to explain why HVAC is bad for the environment until you're using it to make tepid water, at which point it's suddenly good.

      1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

        >> in order to compensate for the much cooler temperatures that the system will operate at.

        That's weird... LG make an air source heat pump that has a flow temp of 75°C (at an outside air temp of -15°C whilst still maintaing a COP of 5; ok so it falls to 2 at -30°C but you can't have everything) which is around the design flow temperature for normal heating systems (much hotter than that and you have a real issue with burning yourself if you accidentally touch a hot rad). It is about £5k list price.

        Still I guess other manufacturers exist who make inferior products whilst charging the government (via the grant schemes) more, which by default are the machines the majority of people will install...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          The boiler also produced domestic hot water without need for a storage cylinder and header tanks. Does the LG heat pump. If it does, fine. If not then it's going to involve some reinstatement in older properties like mine - the cylinder was taken out along with some of the pipework but the original cupboard and header tanks remain. In newer properties it would to involve quite a lot of work to retro-fit these or else the addition of supplementary electric heaters.

          1. Spazturtle Silver badge

            Nearly everyone's hot water needs can be provided for by 2 or 3 solar-thermal evacuated tube panels on their roof. Photovoltaic was the wrong technology for the government to push.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              My family is in East Africa, where it's 30 degrees C and sunny for most of the year. They have that kind of system. The reality is that with solar heating alone, the water is cold in the moring and only really gets warm by mid afternoon. Once the sun goes down at 6pm it starts to cool off again. And when you've used up the tank of hot water you don't get any more until the next afternoon. So all these systems need an electric heater that does the vast majority of the work in warming the water and then the solar tubes just help to keep it warm. So you might as well simplify the system by not having the solar bit and just using an electric water heater.

              Solar water heaters don't even work properly in Africa, so it seems very unlikely that they would work well in cold damp British weather.

              1. Spazturtle Silver badge

                You can look up the data and examples of people who have had them installed in the UK. A properly sized system will provide 90%+ of hot water needs during the summer and 70% during the winter.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Nearly everyone's hot water needs can be provided for by 2 or 3 solar-thermal evacuated tube panels on their roof.

              In the UK? Best of luck with that. Might as well wash in the sea. How is this sun heated water kept warm after say 2pm in winter? Or are we all to rush home from work early to take a shower? FFS, this net-zero bullshit needs to stop. When I was a kid Tomorrow's World was telling us we'd be hit by climate change before now due to Brazilian deforestation - I notice they now seem to get a free pass to just make the place a car park. If the world has a problem then it is chronic overpopulation.

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          for 5k, I could refurbish the entire heating system in my house, with a brand new boiler, and I wouldn't be saddled with a huge, noisy compressor and a great big storage tank taking up space after the fact. The heat pump itself also doesn't supply that temperature alone; it requires a booster heater, which is a heating element in the tank. If it's the one I'm thinking off, then it will only get up to about 57°C without the booster running.

          So, to recap: You pay more, you get less, and you have to spend a premium on electricity in order to get the same heating performance as the gas boiler you're replacing.

        3. Alfie Noakes

          "That's weird... LG make an air source heat pump that has a flow temp of 75°C (at an outside air temp of -15°C whilst still maintaing a COP of 5; ok so it falls to 2 at -30°C but you can't have everything)"

          Can you provide a link to this particular LG ASHP, as it does seem rather "impossible" with current commercially available technologies?

        4. Norfolk N Chance
          Flame

          Really?

          75°C? Whilst I don't refute your numbers, one specification conspicuous by its absence is the *quantity* of water heated over time - e.g. gallons per second or litres per minute. Egg-cups per hour perhaps?

          Perhaps this amazing piece of equipment might be able to shovel vast quantities of cold air around (whilst making a fabulous racket), but I'll bet most of the heat output comes from the equally vast quantities of electricity it consumes during this process.

          Those who have enjoyed the experience of an electrically heated shower know just how much electricity is needed for a surprisingly moderate flow of water during the winter months.

          Another unreported factor is the quantity of air required on the cold side - let's hope the next house doesn't have one, because soon all we'll be effectively doing is running air conditioning, outside - in winter. Which might help cool the planet down, except for all that inconvenient electricity. Oops.

          Icon to remind us what heat used to look like >>>>>>>>

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Really?

            I thought most heat pumps worked on the basis of ground temperature, not air temperature? As a result they need less area because there is a lot more available heat in a given volume of ground compared to air. The trouble is having a large enough chunk of available land to do this, but when done properly it is can be very efficient but what many don't understand is that a backup boiler is still important to such systems.

            1. myhandler

              Re: Really?

              There's two completely distinct types - ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

        5. David Hicklin Bronze badge

          > LG make an air source heat pump .............It is about £5k list price.

          And the installed price ??

      2. Francis King

        "But then, that would require the admission that a "heat pump" is just a crippled HVAC system"

        Yes, exactly. Heat pumps = environmental champion, air conditioning = destructive ogre.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Devil

          Yeah, bizarre that.

          Air conditioning is the devil. Until you slap a sticker on it that says "Heat Pump", now suddenly it's "green"

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      where do you put your heat pipes?

      Who cares? The most important part are subsidies and that you flog the stock of heat pumps.

      The gravy train must go on.

      I suspect the current conversion rate is more likely closer to 20 a week than 20,000!

      First they probably need to do something with unregulated industry. If they let cowboys install those heat pumps, what can go wrong?

    4. Spanky_McPherson

      > where do you put your heat pipes?

      Could they not be attached to an external wall, like people do today with air con units?

      Agree we will never meet the 2050 deadline though.

      1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

        For most of the houses in my area, that would have to be on the front wall, over hanging the pavement, as there's no front yard/garden. And yeah, you're not meant to put things that overhang the public space, it has to be on your land.

      2. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Boffin

        An Air Con unit is a heat pump.

        If you run the refrigerant through an air con unit in reverse, you have a heater.

        The reason people are talking about needing garden space or under street pipes is due to the fact that heat pumps get less efficient as the outside air gets colder. Modern air heat pumps work well below freezing, so most of (e.g.) the UK is fine with a wall-mounted device.

        According to the Met Office, the mean minimum temperature for England sits around the 1.5-2.7 between December and March, which is below the minimum optimum temperature for heat pump heating efficiency (about 5 degrees), but well above the point where the heat pumps are less efficient than burning gas.

        Therefore, most of the time, a wall-mounted reversible air-conditioning unit would replace a gas boiler for the purposes of heating a UK home, and would do a fine job of acting as air conditioning in the summer.

        On the days where it's coldest, when the need for heating is greatest, wall-mounted heat pumps would be working at their least optimal efficiencies, which is why ground-pipe heat pumps are a preferable solution since once you get about 2-3 feet down, the temperature is extremely consistent all year round.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Modern air heat pumps work well below freezing"

          How do they cope with the air flow being blocked with snow and ice?

          1. sitta_europea Silver badge

            "How do they cope with the air flow being blocked with snow and ice"

            Commonly the heat pump runs in reverse occasionally (and only briefly) to defrost frosted-up heat exchangers. Possibly a bit like your fridge/freezer, although designs vary.

            Commonly heat exchangers are sheltered so that rain and snow don't land on them.

            It's definitely not rocket science.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Thanks. That's one question answered, at least to some extent. I'd be worried about that "briefly" in practice as it's going to chill the central heating.

              Looking at the one place where I could install a heat pump it faces the direction from which we get most snow. I'm not sure how it could be sheltered and having seen pictures of installed heat exchangers they don't seem to be sheltered. Maybe that comes later in light of experience.

              1. Persona

                By running in reverse he really means plumping the coolant around the loop without it going through the expansion valve so it doesn't get cold. Effectively this means the heat is coming from the electrical power driving the pump. It needs to be on long enough to melt the ice and dry it off enough so it doesn't ice up when it restarts. On a cold damp day it's going to need a lot of defrost cycles where you are effectively using expensive electrical power to heat the outside and while you are doing that you aren't heating the house either.

              2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
                Coat

                More to the point, can they cope with the wrong type of snow?

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                  Holmes

                  They definitely can't cope with "freezing fog", that's for sure.

                  The worst condition for an air source heat pump is 100% relative humidity (condensing) at just above freezing.

                  Yes, they CAN work at -10C, but in those conditions the air is very dry. Here in the UK, we frequently have cold AND wet weather.

                  1. AVR

                    They work beautifully in NZ either to warm or cool; lots of humidity, temperature range from just below zero to ~30 C, ice and snow very rare.

                    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                      Devil

                      They can work in those conditions, but only with either a ground source (expensive, requires a lot of land compared to the backyard many UK houses have) or else the house needs to be -extremely- well insulated, which is not possible with old houses, and can lead to damp and mould problems. I'd be curious to know what your NZ house looks like in terms of insulation etc. Fundamentally if you extract a lot of heat from 100% humidity air which is just above freezing, then the moisture will freeze directly onto the heat exchanger and force a defrost cycle, which completely wrecks any efficiency gains, and reduces the lifespan of the heat exchanger (which when it eventually fails, will release a charge of refrigerant gas into the atmposphere..)

    5. Philo T Farnsworth

      Heat pump crump.

      I happen to be at what I hope is the tail end of a year long remodel of our home, which is in southern California.

      We wanted a heat pump, mostly because you basically get air conditioning, which we want, as well as heating, which we don't really need all that much, more or less in the same unit.

      However, after much wrangling with our contractor and the local power company, we ended up with two standard gas-fired furnaces instead, which we will probably rarely, if ever, use, since it just doesn't get all that cold here. California building code requires heating units, whether you need them or not, but essentially says zip about requiring AC.

      Why? Because SDGE (the power comany) wouldn't give us the amperage necessary to run the electric heat pump unless we sacrificed some other major electric appliance, like our electric ovens.

      So much for the new "all-electric" future. . .

      BTW, there's an interesting article on hydrogen in the current issue of Nature. "Sizing up hydrogen’s hydrological footprint".

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Heat pump crump.

        "California building code requires heating units, whether you need them or not, but essentially says zip about requiring AC."

        The building codes require heating, but that doesn't mean you have to use it or decide to take it out if you like. My heater hasn't been on for 8 years and it's on the chopping block when I get around to redoing the utility room where it lives. I'm eying the space for more storage for my canning habit. I'm in the process of building two more solar collectors for heating the house. I don't mind wearing a jumper most of the time, but not always when indoors. I'm aiming to have most of the south wall of the house covered in collectors in the next year or so. The eves shade the sun from the wall in the warmer months so I won't have to buy blocks of ice come July to compensate. The vent on the roof for the gas heater will also be able to go which will make installing solar PV easier.

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "To meet the 2050 deadline they would need to be converting 20,000 properties a *week* to heatpumps"

      That would also mean the immediate cessation of boiler installation and the scrapping of boilers with plenty of life left in them which also tosses out all of the energy used to create them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        To meet the 2050 deadline they would need to be converting 20,000 properties a *week* to heatpumps

        ...and that's how you know it's all bullshit. Be seen to be doing something and let the taxpayers fund it until you announce the impracticality of it all and either kick the can or shit-can the whole show.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have a heat pump, and while it does take up a little bit of space, it's not noisy. The noise is just FUD.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "The noise is just FUD."

        Travel someplace where the whole city has loads of heat pumps bolted to the side of every building. A bunch of them will be pretty quiet, but it only takes a few that are old, poor quality and out of balance to create a big racket.

      2. Phil the Geek

        Yes, FUD is the loudest noise

        I had an ASHP installed earlier this year. I did all the pre-installation work (rads, plumbing, loft insulation, outside unit hardstanding) myself. There was a bit of Excel for rad sizing and just basic DIY*. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done much more of the installation myself.

        The system just works - let the software do its stuff and forget about it. The only noise you hear inside the house is flow noise from the radiator circulation pump, which is programmed a bit OTT. I've seen the matrix frosted up in cold misty weather, but it clears itself and carries on.

        If you expect it to do exactly the same thing, exactly the same way as a gas combi, you'll not like it. If you just want to be warm, with ample hot water, it's great. Same end, different means. I'm running on a 100% renewables tariff, so the real bottom line, carbon footprint, is infinitely improved.

        *1960s cavity insulated house. It could be a bugger in a Victorian or older property.

        1. teebie

          Re: Yes, FUD is the loudest noise

          "let the software do its stuff and forget about it"

          You are aware that that sentence is terrifying? Or is the software not written by whatever company gave the cheapest quote.

    8. AdamWill

      "It should also be noted that the vast majority of homes in cities in the UK cannot use individual heat pumps due to lack of space and/or noise from the fan units."

      Er. Wot?

      Have you ever been to literally anywhere in Asia? Or looked at a picture, even? Like this one, in Taipei?

      https://www.alamy.com/taipei-taiwan-march-31-2018-the-exterior-of-a-weathered-apartment-building-in-the-city-of-taipei-taiwan-image337579264.html

      Those are all heat pumps. If you can dangle hundreds of the things off a high rise building, I think we can work out attaching them to ground-level terraces.

      Actually, I live in what is more or less a terrace - a townhouse - in Canada. So I can just tell you. My heat pump sits right outside the front wall, under the front room window. The pipes run up the wall, just like drainpipes. You can barely hear it from two feet away unless it's colder than -10 in winter or hotter than +35 in summer.

    9. Martin hepworth

      i have to stand within about 5 feet of ours to hear the slight hum from the fan...noise isnt an issue, nor is terraced..

    10. Lee D Silver badge

      Most places can use heat pumps just fine.

      The bigger problem is the huge infrastructure project to do so, the "just slap it on" attitude of conversion companies working for the council (my neighbour's one has the external unit slap bang in the middle of her patio for no discernible reason), and other problems.

      I moved in an all-electric house last year, and the heating shows several decades of trying to get it right from when it was a council house.

      In the loft, there is the remnants of a communal hot-water system, long ago disconnected (but they didn't even bother to patch up the HUGE holes between properties or remove the things that held the pipes, I had to do that). The insulation is pathetic, I don't know why they bothered. It all needs replacement. The loft, though, if I was to fit the now-recommended thickness of insulation, would be basically unusable. That's not an issue because the house holds heat so well that I've never cared about it. But my EPC says otherwise.

      Then there's the storage heating - retrofitted with surface-run cables everywhere, heaters in incredibly inconvenient places (Living room, sure. Bedroom, sure. Kitchen, nothing. TINY hallway with no space to move? Let's slap a huge thing right in your way to heat 1 sq m of hallway and nothing else. Bathroom, nothing, .etc.) and largely useless (especially because, hey, OVO, you appear to have made my overnight storage heating MORE EXPENSIVE per KWh than normal peak time electricity as of the 1st Jan, you profiteering oiks! All those old people going out of their way to manage their storage heating are literally LOSING money by doing so now, even if they only use it sparingly!). The previous resident started ripping the storage heaters out and it looks like I'm going to finish the job as there's no reason to heat bricks for long periods of time (which I can't really control unless I want to stay up and flick switches at 4am when it's heated) overnight to have them be mostly cool by the time I get home from work anyway.

      And the immersion heater that also heats overnight - meaning most of my heating goes towards making an empty house lovely and cosy and then just cold enough to require convection heating or boosts when I get home from work.

      So to vaguely modernise that I have to disconnect and ditch half a dozen storage heaters, fit heat pumps to probably 2 or 3 rooms minimum, run that out to a huge box outside in a tiny garden, and then replace my water heating with an instant hot water heater which means pretty much ripping out the immersion heater and replumbing everything (and probably means pumps too). Apart from the electrics, the refrigerant and the plumbing specialists, that's £10k of kit and work. If I had gas, it'd be even more because then you need a Gas Safe guy. And, ironically, I'm not eligible for any grants because I'm not on benefits and because I'd need to spend the recommended £30k to clear my house's EPC of recommendations before they would even consider it otherwise (ridiculously, some of the EPC recommendations literally wouldn't pay back in 100 years even by their own figures!).

      Even if I had central heating, it would definitely mean a complete boiler replacement with quite an expensive piece of kit.

      It's not that they can't build out heat pumps - it's that it's stupidly expensive to do so and only council houses are ever going to bother.

      I'm looking at a self-install heat pump at about £1000 for each (but that's playing a grey area with respect to refrigerants, and having to do the work myself because nobody else will touch that kind of install) and then a tiny instant water heater professionally installed and decommissioning all the storage heater and immersion heater stuff. You're looking at £3k minimum, I suspect, as a private homeowner in an already all-electric house to do the bare minimum, by the letter but probably not the spirit of the law, doing most of the work themselves. That could be £10k+ if you have to use the professionals and have them decommission stuff. That's potentially 10+ years of council tax alone in one project, to benefit the person living there not the council/country.

      That's why it's not happening.

      Hydrogen would just be a vast waste in that, confusing the issue, retaining gas legacy, increasing costs because of the danger / certification involved, etc. because you'd probably spend far more than that, on something that would be unusual and hard to install or maintain, and would never be more than a niche player. It would end up like my house - a bunch of remnants of poor historical ideas of whatever energy-saving tech fad is doing the rounds.

      If you want people to move to heat pumps, they have to be half the cost, and safe enough to be self-installable.

      If you want people to move to hydrogen, it literally has to EXIST as a thing, on a grid scale, in DIY shops, in industry installers, etc. as a commodity item, and it simply doesn't.

      They know that they cannot and will not meet the deadline or have any of these projects come to fruition.

      Hell, I literally still cannot get rid of my stupid three-rate meter at the moment, nor request a smart meter (I know, I try about once a month). And that's a relatively minor and quick thing (I had it done at a previous place, but still only after several attempts) compared to moving everyone to hydrogen or heatpumps.

      I've decided, given that I think this will be the last house I will ever own before retirement, that I will become utility independent by retirement. Buying an all-electric house was a serious part of that consideration. Every month, with the refund from my electricity supplier's UNBELIEVABLE overestimation of my bills, I buy solar panels and batteries and things. And I will likely buy and fit my own heat pumps and the like over the next couple of years before they regulate them too much. No government wet-dream is going to do anything for me on any reasonable timescale and they're just going to be throwing money away. But if I can generate enough to charge batteries enough to run my house and maybe charge a little into the (by then, electric) car each day, I can ignore all their pontificating nonsense entirely. If I have to sacrifice my tiny garden for that, and put some hedges around the box to dampen the noise, then so be it.

      It won't be any cheaper. It won't be any greener. And my house won't be any warmer. But I just want to be warm enough in winter and cool enough in summer and pay as little money to, and have as little to do with, these people as possible. That's electrical suppliers, governments, and even skilled labourers. And going forward, that means no utilities and certainly not gas/hydrogen in any form.

      If I hit retirement and I'm still paying more than the standing charge (if that!), I will be incredibly annoyed at myself.

      In other news, anyone want a lot of heavy bricks?

    11. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      > street-wide pipe networks under roads and pavements

      Oh that would be fun in the middle of winter - turning the roads and pavements into permanent ice rinks.

  4. Spanky_McPherson

    Well, duh

    It should be obvious to all that hydrogen-based heating is (edge cases aside) uneconomical.

    We're really going to take our renewable electricity, turn it into hydrogen, then set fire to it, giving you maybe half of the original energy back as heat? Or we could, you know, run a heatpump which returns *3 times* the orignal energy as heat.

    Yes, we need fatter pipes and larger radiators, and somewhere outside for the gubbins to live. The fact that new houses today are still being installed with microbore pipes that cannot be used by heatpumps should be a scandal.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Well, duh

      Where's the popcorn icon. We need a popcorn icon. I can't wait for the replies to this.

    2. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: Well, duh

      The points you make are good, but it is complicated.

      Heat pumps only cover heating needs as opposed to other uses for fossil fuels (lookin' at you, transportation), so if renewable hydrogen production really takes off and economies of scale kick in, then it may end up being cheaper to do exactly that, with a low cost of hydrogen. (Yes, it's probably better to burn the hydrogen at an all up power station to power individual home's heat pumps, but air-based pumps are at their worst when people need them the most and ground-based pumps are so much more expensive to install).

      In the event that we go the simplest route as a society and just change burning coal/oil/gas for electricity and petrol/diesel/kerosene etc for transport to renewable-generated hydrogen, which itself is an inelegant but functional way to deal with the biggest weakness of solar and wind (there isn't necessarily enough sun or wind when we need the power), it wouldn't surprise me if homes really would be built with Hydrogen boilers/furnaces rather than heat pumps, to keep the house costs down. Not saying that's a good idea, just saying that it wouldn't be surprising.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Well, duh

        Unfortunately Hydrogen is devilishly difficult to store. If you cool it, then it needs to be ten times lower absolute temperature than LNG to liquefy. If you pressurise it, then it leaks through everything. If you do neither, then the energy density is pitiful.

        As others have said, one of the biggest issues with electrification is resilience. A gas boiler's fan, pump and burner control unit will happily run on a 200W sine inverter, whereas Heat Pumps obviously cannot, and will lock themselves out for a long while after a short power outage, or else they damage themselves.

        1. Persona

          Re: Well, duh

          The boiler possibly wouldn’t run happily on an inverter. Most boilers have an ionisation flame detector that relies on a very very low current (way bellow the 30mA needed to trip a RCD) flowing from live to earth. This won’t work with many inverters as the output floats and is not referenced to earth. Connecting the inverter neutral to earth would fix that, but that could lead to a very dangerous fault condition.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge

            Re: Well, duh

            At worst, you'd need a small isolating transformer in addition to your sine inverter. Most IT UPS equipment have this built in

            Actually with a transformer to smooth it out, a regular "modified sine" (aka "modified square") inverter may be enough

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: Well, duh

          Why are you limiting yourself to mechanical storage? There are literally tens of other options. You didn't think we were sitting on our hands? Did you?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Well, duh

      If the grid can guarantee to deliver all that electricity all the time, fine. We have had quite a number of power cuts of varying duration and, given the fact that our road's underground cable were installed in the age of aluminium I expect more, and that's without considering the wider area failures.

      Now it's true that when the electricity fails so does gas-fired central heating. However we have two gas fires. We also have a gas hob so that it's possible to make hot drinks and hot food even when the electric kettle and oven aren't working.

      Decarbonising energy supply makes electricity a common point of failure for domestic heating, cooking and, soon, telecommunications. Do any of the plans make provision for improving resilience?

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Well, duh

        That takes joined up forward thinking and some common sense - sadly those are lacking in the machinery of government

    4. Lurko

      Re: Well, duh

      "we could, you know, run a heatpump which returns *3 times* the orignal energy as heat"

      Well, closer to 2 times if the household wants use the heat pump for stored hot water above the temperature to kill off legionella. Or you could stick with low temp and use top up direct heating or UV treatment, both increasing the electricity demand.

      Let's go with 3x, sounds good, although as you observe it requires a complete makeover of the house heating system - new extra large rads, new piping, new control gear and pumps. Say an all in price of £15k for the heat pump and full system retrofit and make-good. Then we've got to look at the insulation - upgrading a house to the necessary standard for a heat pump is costly, a ballpark figure based on my experience planning such schemes, say £12k per property if done at scale. For say 18m properties that's £480 billion, and ignores supply chain constraints that would inevitably increase the costs of a national programme. Then we've got to find the electricity. In a winter peak we've already got no worthwhile spare generating capacity, nor would adjacent countries as peak demand is invariable a winter anticyclone affecting much of north west Europe. So we need additional despatchable generation that'll provide 170 GW of heat* Factor in electricity system losses of around 11%, say 15% planning contingency, and that's 215 GW of capacity that is needed and able to provide that for up to about 12 days. Wind power won't cut it because winter anticylconic conditions are usually calm, clear and still, and solar is a poor asset in winter in the upper northern hemisphere. Eight to ten nuclear power stations could do it, at a cash cost of say £200 billion, but wouldn't be well utilised across the year so the power would be hugely expensive. To transfer that volume of power would need a tripling of the electricity transmission and distribution system capacity, as a benchmark based on some brief analysis done when I worked in the industry you're looking at a trillion quid. Or we could use some mythical surplus of renewables and some similarly mythical form of energy storage, which would cost even more.

      The econanists at COP28 might think they've saved the world, hopefully they've made contact with an alien race who will be willing to pay for all this.

      * Watson et al, 2021, "How will heat pumps alter national half-hourly heat demands? Empirical modelling based on GB field trials."

      1. sitta_europea Silver badge

        Re: Well, duh

        "... who will be willing to pay for all this."

        You have to balance your braod-brush costings with the broad-brush costings of NOT doing it.

        You might start, for example, with the cost of submerging the eastern seabord of the USA to a depth of, say, 50 metres.

        That's what will happen when all that polar ice melts.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Devil

          And who said that was bad thing ?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
            Devil

            Me. It's not enough.

          2. sitta_europea Silver badge

            "And who said that was bad thing ?"

            Apparently no one. But I suggested that it might be expensive.

            On the subject of the current rate of sea level rise, yes it's nothing like as big as it's going to be when glaciers in Antarctica start to slide more quickly into the Weddell Sea.

            They don't need to melt to cause us problems. They just need to start sliding more quickly.

            The ice will still be ice, but it will then be floating in the sea. Ninety percent of it will be underwater - so it will still displace ninety percent of its volume in seawater, even though it's still frozen.

            You'll probably get something like ninety percent of the sea level rise in something like a week.

            Although I probably won't live to see this happen, I'm still very glad my home is 650 metres above sea level.

        2. SCP

          Re: Well, duh

          You might start, for example, with the cost of submerging the eastern seabord of the USA to a depth of, say, 50 metres.

          Have you thought of starting a GoFundMe page?

        3. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: Well, duh

          That would take about 1,500 years at current rate of sea level rise... if you are being generous. Probably more like double or triple that.

          In a couple of millennia we'll have solutions, assuming we haven't annihilated ourselves by some other means by then. Those "other means" being far more likely if everyone is poorer. You know how the 2nd World War started, right?

          Stop being hysterical.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Well, duh

            "In a couple of millennia we'll have solutions"

            We may even have reached the end of the current inter-glacial although we'll be spared a full-scale glaciation next time around.

        4. Lurko

          Re: Well, duh

          "You have to balance your braod-brush costings with the broad-brush costings of NOT doing it. You might start, for example, with the cost of submerging the eastern seabord of the USA to a depth of, say, 50 metres."

          1) Stop making it up with ridiculous bullshit. Even the climate change industry's worst case scenarios puts global seal level rise at 5m by 2300 (by which time we'd have long run out of low cost fossil fuels anyway). So where does 50 metres come from? Plucked out of your backside?

          2) Britain represents 1% of global carbon emissions, us doing nothing or something won't make a blind bit of difference. I don't want to pay a huge amount for a badly conceived, panicky action that will make no difference. Perhaps you should take your concerns up with the US directly (14% of global emissions), China (29% of emissions) or India 7% of emissions.

          3) Ultimately we will run out of relatively cheap fossil fuels, we will need alternatives. But the current "climate emergency" conjured up by poorly qualified politicians, and the poorly planned, expensive measures being put forward are simply a way of bankrupting nations.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Well, duh

            If they were serious about it, they would have spent the last 40 years pushing nothing but nuclear at every opportunity. Build out to accomodate the peak demand and then use the off-peak surplus to produce hydrogen, for conversion into synthetic hydrocarbons.

            They're not serious about it, as demonstrated by the fact that the people must loudly pushing the whole thing are still buying expensive properties on the coasts they say are going to be swamped any moment, while demanding we give up the ability to heat our homes because of their obsession with unreliable wind and solar.

        5. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Well, duh

          > ...submerging the eastern seabord of the USA ...

          Are there any benefits besides that?

        6. Rolly_Poly

          Re: Well, duh

          According to this link

          https://www.nsf.gov/geo/opp/antarct/science/icesheet.jsp#:~:text=The%20ice%2C%20which%20has%20accumulated,sea%20level%20about%20200%20feet.

          There's circa 6 million cubic miles of ice in the glaciers (~250,000 of them) which will raise sea levels by 200 feet.

        7. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, duh

          Polar ice caps have been about to melt for at least the last 30 years. How's all the net-zero stuff working out? Will Iceland have to take huge amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere to make up for all the pollution their volcanoes add?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well, duh

        I installed my Heat Pump in 2021. I now have 2 years of experience with it. So far it works well once you get used to the lower water temp in your radiators. I retrofitted 5 of mine at the same time at the H-P was installed.

        At the same time I had the H-P installed, I had 33kWh or home battery installed. I run my home from (in winter) 05:00 to 23:59 from the energy stored in the batteries. My use of peak priced leccy this year has been 180kWh costing around £60.00. My system works (thanks to the V2L capacity of my EV) even through power cuts. The battery charges between 00:01 and 04:59 on my EV tariff. I have a 3kW solar array which helps charge the battery on sunny days. So far this month? Zero sun.

        I could probably do with another 8kWh of battery to give me a bit of buffer on the coldest days.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Well, duh

          What was the capital cost of this. And what's the range left on your car after the power cuts?

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Well, duh

        "Say an all in price of £15k for the heat pump and full system retrofit and make-good."

        That's sounds a bit too cheap. Are you including permits and inspections?

      4. Rolly_Poly

        Re: Well, duh

        You post clear calculations, make your valid arguments, cite your sources and still somebody down-votes your comment.

    5. nemecystt

      Re: Well, duh

      I'm not batting for hydrogen here, just pondering remote possibilities.

      Suppose the UK goes all-in on (mostly air source) heat pumps then a few years down the line the ongoing climate change issues lead to a major change in the AMOC. That could get messy...

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Well, duh

      "The fact that new houses today are still being installed with microbore pipes that cannot be used by heatpumps should be a scandal."

      A lot of new houses today seem to be being built with heat pumps installed. It'll be interesting to see how those work out before spending well over £10k to retrofit our older houses.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Well, duh

        "A lot of new houses today seem to be being built with heat pumps installed. It'll be interesting to see how those work out before spending well over £10k to retrofit our older houses."

        It will also be useful to get data based on microclimates. There could be swaths that do really well with a ASHP and some that do rather poorly.

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    wow

    "secretary of state for energy security and net zero"

    The severe oxymoron of that title sounds like it should come from a sketch.

    "Another Johnson era fantasy fails to survive its encounter with science, engineering and economics"

    Net zero is a fantasy that fails to survive its encounter with science, engineering and economics. Doesnt matter which fool who fell for it is the reality still stands.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: wow

      Hey! Some people are doing very well out of it!

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: wow

        Cameron's relatives, for instance.

        And oh look, he's back in government again, just in time for another round of pre-election looting.

  6. ICL1900-G3

    I have to wonder

    What exactly this government is in a position to supply. The give new meaning to the word 'useless' every day.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: I have to wonder

      Just wait until next year.

      Then we can have an equally useless government. Perhaps they'll even surpass this one? The new lot are definitely more in favour of Net Zero fantasies, so let's wait and see how that pans out.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I have to wonder

      "What exactly this government is in a position to supply."

      Bullshit? Lies? Subterfuge? Bluster? Terrible laws suitable for a police state? All your data are belong to Palantir?

      Did I miss anything?

      1. Lurko

        Re: I have to wonder

        Yes, of course you missed some momentous achievements over the past fourteen years, who

        The plastic bag tax,

        mandatory cat-chipping,

        the bonfire of the quangos,

        selling champagne in pint bottles,

        HS2,

        five prime ministers,

        seven chancellors,

        And somewhere around about 1,054 ministerial appointments up until April of this year. That includes junior minister appointments, and is based on parliamentary data. What a shower of dishonest, incompetent shit.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: I have to wonder

          "And somewhere around about 1,054 ministerial appointments up until April of this year. That includes junior minister appointments, and is based on parliamentary data. What a shower of dishonest, incompetent shit."

          Do any of them have qualifications in engineering or science? In the US they are mainly failed attorneys so complete shite when it comes to anything very useful.

          1. Lurko

            Re: I have to wonder

            "Do any of them have qualifications in engineering or science? In the US they are mainly failed attorneys so complete shite when it comes to anything very useful."

            Not really. We have a good crop of failed lawyers, former journalists and a vast number of unemployable idiots, who studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics (or geography, or classics, or other shite) at Oxford and Cambridge, and went into politics as a full time career without even the most vestigial skill or experience to their name. There's been a pitiful number who have had STEM qualifications, but nowhere near enough to make up for the uselessness of the rest.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: I have to wonder

              Much as it grieves me to say it, geography may be mildly useful. My impression, gained in the late '60s, was that they were apt to move into some existing discipline and confuse matters by introducing a new vocabulary rather than adopting and supplementing what was already in use.

              1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                Re: I have to wonder

                A strong understanding of Social Geography seems like it would be incredibly useful to have a strong understanding of as somebody working at any level of government, as that's what should be informing infrastructure & service needs on both a micro and macro scale.

            2. nijam Silver badge

              Re: I have to wonder

              > Politics, Philosophy & Economics

              i.e. Opinions.

  7. imanidiot Silver badge

    Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

    I categorically do not want a hydrogen pipe into my house. That stuff is extremely dangerous and most lay people just don't understand just HOW dangerous that gas is. It's not "just a different gas". It's extremely wide explosion band, extremely small molecular size and extremely low ignition energy means it's an entirely different beast. I trust most spanner wielding monkeys to be able to fit a gas pipe to an appliance. I DO NOT trust the average spanning wielding monkey to be able to install and more importantly leaktest a hydrogen system. I've felt the pain of trying to make co-workers understand how to do vacuum leak testing and hydrogen sniffer tests and with some people it's like pulling teeth. Trying to explain why even tiny leaks were actually a big deal to non-technical managers and project leads equally painful

    I also do not want heat network connections. You'll be locked into an extremely expensive contract with an energy company that has basically no checks or balances against them just raising the price year on year on year (inflation and rising energy cost, just trust us). And if you don't like it you can just freeze to death without heating as they'll just cut you off. This is already the case in the Netherlands anywhere such systems exist and heating there already costs about double to triple what it would have cost for most of those houses to heat using natural gas.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

      While I agree in principle, I don't remember houses exploding with any sort of high frequency or regularity back when most of the UK used "town gas", largely consisting of hydrogen, which surely must have had the same propensity to leak back then as it does now. Physics hasn't changed.

      1. snowpages

        Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

        https://publications.iafss.org/publications/frn/813/-1/view/frn_813.pdf

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

          They did explode. So do houses with natural gas. That paper isn't a comparison.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

          Interesting. I just spent 20 minutes trying to find something similar for current times, ie since switching from "town gas" to "natural gas". There doesn't seem to be anything truly comparable, the closest I can find being from HSE, scroll down to the spreadsheet linked at "RIDGAS - Gas-related incidents reported in Great Britain", which shows something in the region of 30ish domestic gas explosions per year over the last 5 years, stats ending in Nov. 2023.

          That does, in fact, make it seem that Methane is safer than Hydrogen. But there's also the safety regulations that must be taken in to account that are in place nowadays that either didn't exist back then or were much more lax, so still no real comparison. I get the sense from the stats provided, that there is no real difference in the risk of using Methane or Hydrogen taking into account the safety regulations around the use of gas.

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

            I suspect that the time that the switch-over occurred may very well skew the amount of information available.

            Back in the late '60s/early '70s, data storage and science was very minimal. Most data was stored on paper, with little of it making it's way into any sort of meaningful database. Even government figures and reports were mainly paper based. What data did exist in searchable databases probably has not been migrated to modern storage platforms.

            This means that probably the most reliable source of information about town gas explosions is from the local newspaper archives (which are, slowly, being scanned and OCR'd), which again are terribly difficult to search.

            We have had a revolution in data processing in the last 50 years, As a result, information about natural gas explosions is mush easier to source. It's also the case that news flow is much slower, so many gas explosions before local TV and radio news existed would not have reached a national audience with any prominance.

            I think that this will mean that town gas explosions are underplayed compared to the actual number and the number of natural gas explosions. I vaguely remember gas explosions very much being a thing when I as a small child.

      2. Francis King

        Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

        "largely consisting of hydrogen"

        Apparently, about 50% hydrogen.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_gas#:~:text=Town%20gas%20is%20a%20more,roughly%20equal%20quantities%20by%20volume.

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

        Houses are a lot more leak tight now than they were back then, even that little bit of draft makes a lot of difference when dealing with very light gas like hydrogen. There was also plenty of kabooms.

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

          > Houses are a lot more leak tight ...

          It's the pipework, not the houses, that need to be leak-tight. Of course.

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer @nijam

            Not totally. If hydrogen leaks into a house, but the house is not that gas tight, it will probably leak out before it achieves any dangerous concentrations.

            If a house is more gas tight (and I do acknowledge that hydrogen is actually difficult to stop), then dangerous concentrations are more likely to happen.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

        I don't remember houses exploding with any sort of high frequency or regularity back when most of the UK used "town gas"

        It did give so-inclined school-boys opportunities to do interesting explodey things with balloons and fuses... We were also quite keen on the possibilities of sodium chlorate.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

          Just heard today that my old schoolmate from those adventures, about 1960, died a few weeks ago. RIP Dick Lee.

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

      When I was working with Refinery people, hydrogen was vert low on their list of hazards. Due to it just floating away and disappearing.

      Ethane, Propane, LPG are the ones you have to worry about. Ethane, used in production, Propane, used for heating, LPG, used for motor transport. These are things that, when cold, will pool and explode in your house or caravan or refinery. Propane is widely used for off-grid heating in the USA, and you'll see much more demanding ventilation requirements for that than you see for natural gas (methane) or town gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide)

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

      "And if you don't like it you can just freeze to death without heating as they'll just cut you off."

      Depends on where you are. In some places you won't be able to occupy a house that isn't connected to utilities and they'll move mountains to make sure you are out of there even though for 1/4 of the price of doing that, they could pay your bill for you. Chances are a law will be passed that you must be connected and if you fail to pay your bill, they'll put a lien on the property.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Hydrogen is absolute SHIT for energy storage or transfer

        I'd love to see some commentary to go with the downvotes. In the US, there have been plenty of stories of people going off-grid and having their homes condemned for occupation due to regulations that require connection to utilities if they are available. There's been a couple where kids are involved that are even more painful to hear about. It's nothing about the livability of the home, just that it isn't connected with an active billing account.

  8. Dippywood

    So it all turned out to be...

    ... just a pop in a test tube.

  9. cookieMonster Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This story

    Reads like a plot line from the Simpsons

  10. wiggers

    "Heat pumps and heat networks are the solution."

    Solution to what problem exactly? And if the proposed solution doesn't fit a large proportion of use cases then what's the alternative? Government trying to pick winners in a non-existent race, no doubt to feather ministers' nests in future employment.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: "Heat pumps and heat networks are the solution."

      They do seem to love putting all our eggs in their poorly thought-out, undersized and creaky basket. Electric! Electric! Electric! Where's Ballmer? He'd be so proud. Maybe Coutinho could toss a few chairs around, too.

      Where's all this glorious electrickery going to come from? There's already nowhere near enough for all the electric cars and vans they want us to have. Heating and cooking now have to be supplied by that too. Incompetent madness.

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I've lived in a house which didn't have electricity (in fact it was the second-longest of any house) but I've never lived in an all electric house. In fact never in a house dependent on a single fuel source of any sort. I don't think I'd be confident of it.

    1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      I live in an all electric house.

      Quite common in rural france where there is little piped gas service except in larger towns ("gaz de ville"). Heating is via reversible HVAC serving main rooms. Very good it is too. We have double glazing and wall insulation and compared to our previous house here (same size but no wall insulation, electric wall heaters and huge wood stove) we are warmer and on course to be 60% of prev house leccy bill. Hot water from highly insulated mains pressure electric water heater - only needs max 3hr heating per day

      Replacing oil central heating with like is no longer permitted here and gas boilers are under review for same.

      So many are going ASHP/Reversible HVAC route/wood pellet burners

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Very few modern houses can be heated or have hot water without electricity. There are probably a few gravity fed CH systems still around most are reliant on a pump. One of the reasons I replaced my gas fire when the old one failed was to ensure that I had a source of heat if the power ever failed.

      Then again I live in a country with a very reliable national electricity grid. In nearly 25 years I think I've experienced two or three ten minute outages and one that was nearly an hour which impacted half the country a couple of years ago. Depending on electricity seems like a safe bet to me.

  12. sitta_europea Silver badge

    "Another Johnson era fantasy fails to survive its encounter with ..."

    "... science, engineering and economics"

    Or "reality" as we engineers like to call it.

    But we've been saying that since about the 18th century and they still aren't listening.

  13. ChrisElvidge Bronze badge

    As an alternative to propane?

    I'm in a small part of a village without piped (mains) gas and hence use propane in cylinders. Could I (and people like me) be a useful test case for hydrogen heating?

    Would an inverter/conditioner be a good bet - heats/cools the air directly, radiators optional.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: As an alternative to propane?

      > Could I (and people like me) be a useful test case for ...

      Yes, absolutely. So it's guaranteed you'll never be asked.

    2. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: As an alternative to propane?

      That works for us. We do have some electric wall radiatirs but the reversible HVAC (in principal rooms) is much quicker to heat up and cheaper to run, by a long way

    3. munnoch Bronze badge

      Re: As an alternative to propane?

      | heats/cools the air directly, radiators optional

      Hot air heating is very uncomfortable on the respiratory system. Makes the air much dryer than it will be with radiators and you need to blow a lot of air into the room to get decent heat transfer so quite noisy.

      Common in parts of the world where air conditioning is the primary use case for the HP as its a much simpler install and a flip of the switch to go from cooling to heating. Lived with it for umpty years in Japan, hardly ever ran the heating for that reason.

  14. DS999 Silver badge

    Why not just make methane?

    It is pretty trivial using the Sabatier reaction to add CO2 to hydrogen to make methane, and equipment to heat homes using methane/natural gas is commonly available plus it is easier to store and transport than hydrogen. And if you are pulling CO2 out of the air to add to the hydrogen you made, then the CO2 released when it is burned as fuel is carbon neutral.

    Trying to create a whole new system for heating homes using hydrogen seems stupid. Just keep the part where you're making hydrogen, and use the existing very mature natural gas infrastructure for the rest!

    Though in the UK I don't see why everyone doesn't use a heat pump for heating their home. Some do have problems with efficiency below -20C (though modern ones are available that can go to -30 or even -40C) but AFAIK it is extremely rare for anywhere in the UK to get colder than -20C. Plus they'd get air conditioning in the summer which is otherwise not worth it for most given how infrequently temperatures rise high enough to need it. The UK is really perfect climate for heat pumps since you'd be in the maximum efficiency range almost all the time, and any concerns over lack of electrical production would be mitigated by the fact that only a small amount of homes replace their heating every year so it isn't as though you'd need enough electrical generating capacity to cover everyone at once - plus there are plenty of homes heated by massively inefficient electrical resistance heating which would get replaced with far more efficient heat pumps thus reducing their electric demand.

    1. Barrie Shepherd

      Re: Why not just make methane?

      Why bother with all that?

      The old towns gas was 40-50% hydrogen with 30% ish methane. The pipes carried it OK. The problems came when they put dry natural gas through the system and all the tarred wet joints dried out. That led to the gas leaks / explosions following the great natural gas conversion programme.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Why not just make methane?

        You mention the great natural gas conversion programme.. Switching to hydrogen would undoubtedly require another conversion programme. Synthetic methane would avoid that. It would probably be anathema to those who already want to get rid of cows because "methane".

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Why not just make methane?

      "It is pretty trivial using the Sabatier reaction to add CO2 to hydrogen to make methane"

      That's an old friend. We used in the first Belfast carbon dating system using ruthenium as the catalyst. The sample was burned in a stream of oxygen, the carbon dioxide was converted to methane. That was cleaned up (need to remove the water) and then used to fill a 1.5 l counter. For trouble shooting the vacuum system we used a rubber tube attached to the hydrogen cylinder and wafting it over the pipework. If there was a slightly leaking joint hydrogen would go through it more faster than air and the change in note of the vac. pump would let you know when you'd found it.

      But it does require heat and pressure which leads to the question of overall efficiency. Also, the objective of pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere is to bury it in a carbon negative operation, not to recirculate it.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Why not just make methane?

      "It is pretty trivial using the Sabatier reaction to add CO2 to hydrogen to make methane,"

      Most commercial Hydrogen is made from natural gas in the first place. It also makes no sense to use energy to create Hydrogen by splitting water to have a feedstock to use more power turning it into CH4, not to mention what it will take to suck in air and separate CO2 to take that apart for the Carbon.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Why not just make methane?

        It also makes no sense to be making hydrogen from methane as it simply dumps the CO2 content which is what we're trying to avoid.

        Electrolysis/combustion cycle is like any other energy transfer system. You put energy in (electrolysis) and get it out again (combustion) less any losses. The choice depends on what particular characteristics you want - storage, temperature at the output, & so on. If the losses of one method are greater than those of another the matching of characteristcs to requirement might balance that out in terms of overall utility.

  15. Barrie Shepherd

    Before Natural gas we used to heat our homes with towns gas from the gas works.

    I wish people would understand that this was between 40-50% hydrogen with methane and a little carbon monoxide.

    So why all the fear sbout going back to a similar composition? The nimby's and government departments who have closed down evaluations have done the country an inustice.

  16. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Aluminium power cable

    "underground cable were installed in the age of aluminium"

    Was Aluminium used in power distribution outside NZ?

    I remember as a kid in the 1960s watching Aluminium cabling being buried in trenches and snaffling the the cable cutoffs.

    Never seen it elsewhere so assumed a kiwi peculiarity. I think it all had to be replaced but years after we left NZ. Reason?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Aluminium power cable

      Reason?

      Aluminium is tricky to solder because of the speed with which it oxidises, but when connected with screw terminals it has a tendency to creep over time, loosening the joint and becoming a fire hazard. It was used in US house wiring for a while, and caused many fires.

      It's still widely used for overhead HT links because it's much lighter than copper for a given current capacity.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Aluminium power cable

        Overhead may be OK. Underground, very much not but I don't see them replacing it any time soon.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Aluminium power cable

      "Was Aluminium used in power distribution outside NZ?"

      Yes. I think the main conductors are copper but there's a wire wrapping which is aluminium and the neutrals connect to that. Our neutral developed a resistance of several ohms and an instant response from Northern Powergrid when I reported it This is very much antipodean to NZ.

      It was also used at one time for telephone wiring providing a constant supply of faults there as well as in power lines.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aluminium power cable

      Most high voltage national grid overhead power cables are made of aluminum (lighter, low price, and high electrical carrying capacity).

      Don't know why people assume they're made of copper.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aluminium power cable

      Underground Aluminium cables are fairly common in electricity distribution, globally. There are limited quantities installed at transmission voltages (132kV and up).

      The performance limitations of aluminium to copper are significant and if you have only limited corridors to install then copper is a big plus.

      Regarding replacements, globally, underground cable technologies come in four basic flavours - MIND, OF, Pipe and XLPE. The first three are obsolete, and have life limiting factors that mean they will be remain reliable enough (by Euro standards) for somewhere in the range 60 and 80 years. All networks with an interest in maintaining reliability over time, and avoiding a "bow wave" of work all landing at once will be gradually replacing these types.

      Cable failure if not caused by external factors (landslip, idiots in JCB's etc.) is mostly a function of how good the waterproofing from outside in is, or the insulation from the inside out. A heavily pushed system won't last as long on either front.

      I may have written a book or two on this subject, some internal, some in the public domain; and therefore A/C.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brexit phase 2

    Moor Britain just off Florida.

    Being in the Bermuda Triangle can’t be any worse…

    (Runs away…)

  18. Tron Silver badge

    Heat pumps are a distraction not a solution.

    They are very expensive, can't be installed in many UK homes, make too much noise, don't work well enough and require hugely invasive internal re-piping. Nobody wants them and there aren't enough people to install them. Immersion heating and electric radiators can be deployed instead, rapidly, cheaply and quickly.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Re: Heat pumps are a distraction not a solution.

      I was with you until you pushed resistive heating. That's a completely stupid waste of energy. Much better to have a gas boiler.

      Unless you're in France and have nuclear power. But even then, electric resistive heating is expensive because the electricity can be exported, and can be much more effectively used for other things

  19. Swb

    Good riddance.

    Green hydrogen total nonsense.

    Next to go air source heat pumps.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Sure...

      >>> Green hydrogen total nonsense.

      Did you also claim that solar panels and wind turbines would never be economically viable?

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Green hydrogen total nonsense.

      Next to go air source heat pumps."

      I agree with the former, but not the latter. ASHP's are useful in particular areas and not so good in others. A ground source heat pump can often do even better, but again, it won't work in some extreme climates.

      Anything to do with engineering has a large "it depends" factor. Where I live, we get lots of sun so solar should be a slam dunk. Fine, fine, but how much? The permit and approval process comes with certain costs that don't vary with the size of the system so if you want/need something below a threshold, the government has regulated that size out of economic reality. Since I'm not putting in a grid connected system, I'm going with the "forgiveness over permission model". I highly doubt that the "code enforcement" witch is going to notice one more house with panels on.

  20. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Devil

    Hmm

    "cannot go ahead as designed, as the main source of hydrogen supply will not be available."

    Given the current government's love for fossil fuels, I feel the sentence should actually read

    "cannot go ahead, as designed, as the main source of hydrogen supply will not be available."

    What a difference a comma makes.

  21. Citizen99

    Johnson's resignation 'series of scandals' was stitch-up allegations over trivial matters in the context of Covid and of dubious provenance. It's all coming out now despite being deliberately ignored by the current ridiculous Enquiry. "The Science" is in itself a non-scientific concept, and the 'scientific' advice is now seen to be chaotic and inaccurate in its own terms.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hydrogen and domestic pipework should never be allowed to mix.

    The remotest trace of sulphur and water, both of which are present in domestic pipework at trace levels results in the Hydrogen forming Sulphuric acid, the effects of which should be self explanatory. For those with the scientific capability Boris Johnstone, the acid will eat your pipes and boilers from the inside out.

    Best regards, a gas pipeline engineer of 20 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Why don't German engineers read this "scientific" forum?

      German hydrogen pipeline network will begin transporting H2 in 2025, with 9,700km in place by 2032, says government

      The German government has today unveiled the draft of its planned “hydrogen core network”, saying it will cost €19.8bn, start transporting H2 in 2025, and consist of 9,700km of pipelines by 2032 to connect ports, industry, power plants and storage facilities.

      Gas-hydrogen blending test for German home heating nears 30% target

      The Oehringen "hydrogen island", an area in a town near Heilbronn with detached family homes, has been receiving a mix of natural gas plus gradually more hydrogen from its pipeline operator Netze BW - a subsidiary of utility EnBW (EBKG.DE) - since autumn 2022.

      Netze's adjacent regional offices in Oehringen got the blends ahead of the homes, reaching a 30% mix already last summer.

      "Within the next two weeks, we will raise the share from 8% to 20% and two weeks further on, we will get to 30% in the households," project leader Heike Gruener told Reuters during a visit.

      The blending happens on the Netze BW site, using bought-in renewable power which is put through an electrolysis plant.

      The company wanted to show that the pipeline infrastructure and boilers, radiators and hobs can adapt to the mix without major replacements or adjustments. It said it hoped to demonstrate that repurposing Germany's huge gas infrastructure to serve homes and industry could work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why don't German engineers read this "scientific" forum?

        Germany and sensible energy policies do not equate. See also, the shutdown of their nukes because of a Tsunami in the pacitic.

        Government and Science do not mix either. Science says this is a fucking stupid idea, and it should be treated as such.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Why don't German engineers read this "scientific" forum?

          It's all right; it'll stop after the first nice big bang.

          Fortunately I have Fernwärme- locally distributed hot water which meets a heat exchanger in my cellar and provides hot tap water and house heating. It's currently gas heated at a site a km or two away.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Brexit was not a bad thing in the end.

          Yours is the lamest comment of them all.

          There's a reason why Germany acquired most of what was valuable in the British Motor industry (and left the rest to India and China). There's a reason why BLMC was s**t, and there's a reason why Germany lords it on the automotive industry. Simply put, Germany has better engineers than Britain. By far.

          Germany energy policies are elaborated in close concertation with all kinds of experts. Unlike in Britain. Germany has better economists, chemists, physicists, engineers, and technicians than Britain. Closing their nukes is the best decision they've made, and is followed by many European countries (including Britain). It unlocked scarce grid bandwidth, freed up some budget, stemmed the waste of resources on radioactive refutes and created a market for renewables allowing them to reach the critical mass and to decrease their learning rate faster. The consequences of that market-making is now felt in the whole world. A feat that the elitist nuclear industry could never have achieved. It just takes a blend of education in economics, strategy and engineering that's not commonly found in the grumpy, delusional, pseudo-scientific, nuke bros haunting this forum.

          Understanding Visual Basic better than your mother in law does not imply you also know better about energy policies than German experts putting tens of billions of Euros on the table. Their investment decisions are probably better thought out than the anthology of naysayer comments under this article.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brexit was not a bad thing in the end.

            Let me get this straight - you are saying cutting off a cheap, clean and reliable supply with at least 2 decades of lifetime left on them, at well-interconnected nodes on their networks in order to "free" up capacity on the grid was a good thing? Germany has to run it's coal and gas plant considerably more to make up the shortfall; while network utilisation at those nodes around the nukes is now well below where it could have been.

            Call me weird but most investors and consumers would prefer an asset they have paid for to be used rather than sit there idle.

            I have heard some funny arguments in my time but yours has more holes than Swiss cheese.

            Declare war on Nuke if you like but in doing so you are supporting the Fossil Fuel brigade. Renewables are not installed in large enough quantities to address the shortfall (yet). Particularly versus backdrop of massively increasing electrical demand to support EV and Heat Pumps.

            I hate to resort to a phrase that the Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells would use, but in this case, it's true. Put down the crack pipe.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Brexit was not a bad thing in the end.

              "Renewables are not installed in large enough quantities to address the shortfall (yet)"

              There's no "yet". The way energy is used hasn't changed. Companies aren't developing schedules and workflows to take advantage and consideration of fluctuating energy availability/cost. They are all expecting that renewable energy will be no different than classic fossil fuel produced baseline power that is there 24/7/365 and that's the assumption when they formulate their plans. It's the same as every downtown office having the same schedules which leads to the requirement of building transportation systems capable (occasionally) of the peak travel times. Instead, they could offer offset hours so there isn't the big crush twice per day. The assumption here is that everybody continues to work in large downtown office blocks. There was a good reason for that model that no longer applies. It's the same reason there were "garment" districts and "diamond" districts and areas with heavy textile or iron works. Transportation and communications weren't what they are today. We no longer need everybody in a company in one building. We don't need whole industries in a few city blocks so they can interoperate. We need to look at power in new ways as well rather than trying to hammer the purple star into the red square hold.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Brexit was not a bad thing in the end.

            "Simply put, Germany has better engineers than Britain. By far."

            I can see why you have posted anonymously.

            It's not often the issues at the engineering level that make the biggest problems, it's management and culture. If almost no management has engineering qualifications and some have their posts due to money rather than talent, you get highly dysfunctional companies. The designers and engineers can be very good and yet hampered at every turn by people who's mantra is "it stand to reason" when they have very little in the 'reason' bin. Certainly very little when it comes to engineering.

            OTOH, if you have companies that have engineers running the show or at least having some respect for the engineers they have and listen to them, things can be much different. The biggest piece of humility worth having is the ability to admit you don't have a clue about something and take the advice of somebody that's dedicated their lives to the subject.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Brexit was not a bad thing in the end.

              "I can see why you have posted anonymously."

              Yeah, like MachDiamond is a real name. LMAO.

              "it's management and culture"

              A nation of engineers also has better educated and better advised managers of engineering-intensive industries. Sorry to have to state the obvious. Somehow, Brits have given up on tech with their colonial empire and have moved to financial services. And more recently also killed the City with Brexit. London losing it to Frankfurt. There's no coming back in the race without going back to basics.

              "The biggest piece of humility worth having is the ability to admit you don't have a clue about something and take the advice of somebody that's dedicated their lives to the subject."

              Well said. All you have to do now is apply this to your own understanding of the upcoming hydrogen economy. The key word here is not hydrogen. It's economy.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Stop hijacking science

          > Science says this is a <expletive> stupid idea

          Really? What science? Your own personal science? This has nothing to do with "science", by the way, and everything to do with technology. Look up the difference.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stop hijacking science

            The simple fact that H2 is smaller than the interstices of all metal pipework used in the domestic and transmission networks means that by definition, every single pipe in the land will leak, and not just at the flanges as is the case today.

            Hydrogen's propensity to bond with anything means that corrosion and embrittlement will accelerate the rate of failure of every device in the land; from transmission network to domestic boiler. The trace quantities of sulphur in the gas network (plus a little water, which is hopefully in your boiler) will bond with the hydrogen to form sulphuric acid. The consequences of that, if you aren't clear, are an increase in the number of explosive failures of boilers.

            And where exactly do you get the hydrogen from in the first place in a clean manner - ahh yes - it's possible but the process to do so is not very cost effective compared to just using the electricity directly. Unless you believe the rubbish the fossil fuel outlets are pushing to crack natural gas into hydrogen. This is of course triply wasteful as it needs mining/drilling for oil, the electric to do the cracking, and still leaves you with the CO2.

            So yes, hydrogen being allowed into the domestic network is a fucking stupid idea according to the science. I have no financial stake in the success or failure of hydrogen, though I would suspect those defending it vociferously probably do.

            Feel free to disagree (that is how science works), but there are no shortage of peer reviewed papers in circulation that go into considerably more depth than this anecdotal summary on an obscure message board.

            As was amply pointed out in parliament last week; Parliament passing legislation to say that Aberystwyth is on the moon does not alter the fact that it is in Wales.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Twitter Science vs Real Science

              So you want science, huh?

              Twitter Science: The simple fact that H2 is smaller than the interstices of all metal pipework used in the domestic and transmission networks means that by definition, every single pipe in the land will leak, and not just at the flanges as is the case today.

              Real Science: Small holes. low velocity => laminar flow. Difference of dynamic viscosity: H2 leakage (volume): 1.2 that of natural gas (0.15 in mass, 0.4 in energy term). Larger holes, higher pressure/velocity => turbulent flow. Difference of dynamic viscosity: H2 leakage (volume): 2.8 that of natural gas (0.35 in mass, 0.91 in energy term). A loss of 3 - 7 kt/year of hydrogen would equate to 0.02 - 0.04 % of the total hydrogen transported. Source Frazer-Nash consultancy for NTS (UK National Transmission System).

              Twitter Science: Hydrogen's propensity to bond with anything means that corrosion and embrittlement will accelerate the rate of failure of every device in the land; from transmission network to domestic boiler. The trace quantities of sulphur in the gas network (plus a little water, which is hopefully in your boiler) will bond with the hydrogen to form sulphuric acid. The consequences of that, if you aren't clear, are an increase in the number of explosive failures of boilers.

              Real Science In practice, hydrogen embrittlement is only applicable to steel pipes (not stainless steels). Copper and aluminum pipes are mostly unaffected. In addition, embritlement is caused by atomic hydrogen. Not gaseous molecular hydrogen. It also needs some mechanical stress to start causing cracks. There is virtually no embritlement phenomenon at temperatures above 150°C. What is your boiler's temperature? So, it's hardly unavoidable. Probably not that relevant. More like anti-H2 FUD. As an aside, that propensity is also key to non mechanical H2 storing technologies.

              Twitter Science And where exactly do you get the hydrogen from in the first place in a clean manner - ahh yes - it's possible but the process to do so is not very cost effective compared to just using the electricity directly.

              Real Science (including basic economy). The price of electricity is not constant, across time of day or across seasons. You can convert cheap (10$/MWh) electricity, that would otherwise be wasted, to produce cheap H2 (<2$/kg) that can be used to heat homes when electricity is in short supply and expensive (100$/MWh). It's like winter strawberry jam vs fresh summer strawberries. The Hydrogen economy is coming up. You could assume that public and private investors might have gone through some due diligence.

              Conclusion: Science observes describes. Technology uses these observations to achieve goals. Try to grasp [constantly progressing] technology. Avoid hijacking science for FUD purposes.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Stop hijacking science

              "The simple fact that H2 is smaller than the interstices of all metal pipework used in the domestic and transmission networks means that by definition, every single pipe in the land will leak, and not just at the flanges as is the case today."

              There's already big coverups on how much natural gas leaks from pipelines. H2 will just be more of the same with other problems added as a special sauce.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Stop hijacking science

                > H2 will just be more of the same with other problems added as a special sauce.

                Rubbish. H2 Kinetic diameter is only 50% larger than CH4. Current leaks in natural gas pipes are much larger than the diameter of the CH4 molecule. The diameter of gas molecule has no impact on the leaked quantities. You don't know what you're talking about.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Why don't German engineers read this "scientific" forum?

        The German government made a big mistake with renewables and now they are thrashing around trying to find a fix that doesn't lose them face by going back to coal and looking into restarting nuke plants if they can. Hydrogen sound nice and green so they'll waste vast amounts of money on that while failing to notice an exodus of manufacturing due to unreliable energy supplies.

        I'm all for wind and solar, but they are not silver bullet replacements for base load generation. I don't see discussions about the best applications for intermittent sources of power such as wind. Once I'm all kitted out with PV panels, I'll be shifting high power using activities to daylight hours rather than doing things like laundry in the evenings. Being self-employed and working half the time at home lets me do that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why don't German engineers read this "scientific" forum?

          Germans are showing the way. You simply don't understand what's going on. And forget about base load. There's no base load with smart capillary grids and distributed generation/storage. Forget about nuke plants, too. Once for all. You still live in the 20th century.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is district heating a political non-starter? Because technically, it is a good solution.

    I can of course understand not wanting to be locked-in to the current flavor of rapacious utility owners, but surely it should be possible to create a proper energy generation market on top of the utility-owned heat lines - learning and fixing issues in the current examples of similar, creating strong defenses against regulatory capture, etc...

    Sorry, sorry. I forgot it is the 2020s and anything that promotes actual competition instead of corporate profits is now considered abominable socialism.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      District heating is a definite non-starter under a Tory government largely funded by donations from construction firms. Under the next lot, I hope we'll find out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The trouble with any district heating system is that when you're dealing with low-grade heat, moving it anywhere useful is itself energy intensive, you don't get that much back for the cost of doing it. And, if the common heat supply develops isn't online for whatever reason (which it will!), the whole shebang fails.

      The much touted and pushed heat recovery from datacentre idea is good only as long as the datacentre is competitive enough to get business.

      For a more extreme example, see Crossrail. In their case, they have unusually concentrated heat sources in the form of trains braking (releasing MW-range amounts of heat) on the way into stations. They worked up the technology to fit circulating water around the tunnel shafts of those braking zones, and in principle, send it somewhere useful. Crossrail can reasonably be expected to operate for a long time, and so the excuse of fickle upstream supply doesn't apply.

      The fact that this system could not be made to work economically is primarily a damnation of the lack of co-operation between local authorities and private construction to do something useful with it.

  24. Anonymous Alien
    Alert

    Nitrogen oxides

    Combusting hydrogen at high temperatures produces nitrogen oxides which are worse environmentally than CO2.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nitrogen oxides

      And without also changing the burner, the higher calorific value of Hydrogen while operating at similar pressures means that by definition the temperature of combustion will be higher and thus forming more NOX.

      Your boiler will be clicking on and off more often, which is a problem for running e.g. a shower; and may play into lifetime considerations of the hardware also. (If not ruined by embrittlement or corrosion beforehand).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I came across an interesting tidbit yesterday. Ofgem's view of the lifetime of the Gas industry is about 15 years.

    I wouldn't put it that short myself, but bloody hell!

  26. grumpy-old-person

    Haber/ Bosch process hassles with Hydrogen

    Fritz Haber worked out a way to make Ammonia from Hydrogen and atmospheric Nitrogen, with the process actually implemented on an industrial scale by BASF's Carl Bosch.

    The problems encountered with Hydrogen caused much pain, eventually mastered in interesting fashion.

    Hydrogen my not be the best option for "greening" the world!

  27. aelfheld

    Stock up on wool

    "They will need to be replaced by heat pumps [...]"

    Anyone who's had experience with them knows heat pumps don't work well when it gets cold enough outside.

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