Hydrogen uncertainty could delay uptake of low-carbon heating

Home hydrogen heating concept.

Without clear evidence on hydrogen’s role in home heating, the development of other low-carbon alternatives could be delayed, according to a new report from energy consultancy Cornwall Insight. The Hydrogen Index1 report urges the UK government to ramp up research to conclusively determine whether hydrogen is a viable option for domestic heating, with the clarity essential to efficiently target decarbonisation efforts in the home heating sector.

Some in the energy industry have voiced concerns about the viability of hydrogen as a replacement for gas in home heating, with cost and safety often cited as key barriers.

The UK’s Hydrogen Strategy, published in 2021, highlighted the need to establish a solid evidence base for hydrogen heating, including trials, with a decision on its use expected in 2026. However, some stakeholders are concerned about the slow pace, saying that a lack of guidance on hydrogen is hampering the adoption of alternative methods like heat pumps while the industry awaits clarity.

Although the suitability of hydrogen for home heating remains a topic of contention, Cornwall Insight’s latest Hydrogen Index report, which ranks countries who have branded themselves as potential leaders in the new hydrogen economy, does highlight hydrogen’s undeniable potential within broader decarbonisation strategies. This includes its role in the industrial sector, its use to store surplus electricity, and its role in the balancing of the energy system.

The UK government has made significant strides on the use of hydrogen in non-domestic settings, recognising its role in achieving the nation’s net zero goals. Cornwall Insight’s Index ranks the UK fifth out of the leading hydrogen economies, beating France, Australia, and Italy, amongst others.

The UK’s ranking reflects the work the government has done over the past year, including publishing several hydrogen roadmaps, highlighting key government commitments and laying out plans for the future of the sector. In its latest Hydrogen Net Zero Investment Roadmap, published in February 2024, the government emphasised the growing investment opportunities for hydrogen in the UK, as well as the increased pipeline of potential projects which will grow from 20GW (in April 2023) to an estimated 27GW by 2037.

Table 1:Low Carbon Hydrogen Policy Index scores and rankings.

Jamie Maule, Research Analyst at Cornwall Insight:

“Hydrogen’s use for domestic heating is a hotly debated topic, with strong views on both sides. If we are to progress with decarbonising domestic heating we need to see clarity from the government regarding the use, or not, of hydrogen for home heating. This means robust evidence must be collected. Without this clarity we risk stalling other forms of low-carbon home heating, such as heat pumps, as people wait to see if hydrogen might be an option.

“Although progress on adoption of hydrogen in residential settings has been sluggish, the UK’s strides in hydrogen strategy across other sectors over the past year have been impressive. With clear roadmaps for hydrogen’s role in industrial decarbonisation and a keen focus on investment opportunities, the UK stands as a leader in building a low-carbon hydrogen economy. Continued progress in utilising hydrogen for decarbonising the country is crucial for achieving our net-zero goals.”


  1. Cornwall Insight’s Hydrogen Index ranks countries who have branded themselves as potential leaders in the new hydrogen economy. A range of indicators, subject to differing weightings, have been utilised in the production of this index. They are listed as follows without regard to importance or weighted value:
  • Detail of national hydrogen strategy
  • Timelines for low- carbon hydrogen sector development
  • Low- carbon hydrogen capacity, production, and infrastructure targets
  • Low- carbon hydrogen storage, transport, and network targets
  • Planned review of national hydrogen strategy
  • Support mechanisms for low- carbon hydrogen
  • Low- carbon hydrogen project pipeline