A draft EU law would support an unaffordable rollout of hydrogen heating for households in Europe – whether they want hydrogen or not

Brussels, September 6 – Plans to switch Europeans’ heating from fossil gas to hydrogen could lead to energy bills more than doubling, and force households to pay for €240bn of new infrastructure, according to a new report published today by Global Witness.

The analysis – based on findings from the energy market consultancy Element Energy – shows that draft EU plans could make consumers foot the bill for new hydrogen infrastructure, regardless of whether they use hydrogen or gas to heat their homes.

Jonathan Noronha-Gant, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, said:

The last thing that the tens of millions of people across Europe who will face energy poverty this winter need to hear is that their bills are going to go up again – but that’s exactly what would happen with plans to roll out hydrogen heating.

“It is deeply cynical that gas companies have lobbied for people to pay for infrastructure they will not want to use. MEPs and national governments must close the door on hydrogen heating, which is an unaffordable pipe dream, and instead pull out all the stops to make clean, affordable renewable heating available to everyone.

Switching to hydrogen heating would require huge investment in Europe’s energy infrastructure, including new electrolysers, pipelines, pumps and boilers, as well as the renewable energy facilities required to produce green hydrogen.

The first consequence would be extremely high energy bills for prospective hydrogen consumers.

According to Element Energy, by 2050 it would cost an average of €1,580 to heat a medium-sized house with hydrogen. This is more than double the average price of gas heating for the end of 2021, the last period for which data is available.

However, the costs of switching to hydrogen would also be borne by households that continue to use gas heating.

European Commission proposals to reform the EU’s gas market would allow companies to charge gas consumers to build hydrogen pipelines – even if they do not want to switch to using hydrogen for heating.

Based on Element Energy’s analysis, Global Witness estimates €240bn of new hydrogen infrastructure could be charged to gas consumers over a 40-year period.

The EU still has time to change course

The European Commission’s draft law to reform the gas market – the Gas Package, which is currently being debated by the European Parliament and Council – would allow companies supplying hydrogen to share infrastructure costs between their hydrogen and gas consumers.

The proposal comes off the back of lobbying from the utility companies that pipe gas into European households, which have pushed hard for gas consumers to pay for hydrogen infrastructure. [1]

MEPs in the European Parliament’s energy committee will vote on their position on the reform of the EU market at the end of November, while national energy ministers will discuss the proposals in the Energy Council on 25 October and are scheduled to finalise their position by the end of 2022.