The Role of Hydrogen in Heating Buildings

16 10 2021 | 13:02

Climate-neutral heat supply requires a considerable transformation of the heat sector; Germany targets a reduction in CO2 emissions from the heat market of at least 40% by 2030.

The generation of space heating and hot water in the building sector (referred to as "heat market" in this study) plays a central role in achieving Germany's climate targets. By 2030, CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 40% compared to today. In light of the recent tightening of the EU CO2 reduction targets in the context of the EU Green Deal, a further increase in efforts in the heat market in Germany is to be expected. For comparison, in the last decade, CO2 emissions were only reduced by 18%.

Hydrogen is recognised as an important component for achieving climate neutrality, therefore a rapid market ramp-up is now key.

At the same time, the public debate now recognises that renewable or low emission hydrogen is a central building block in achieving climate goals. The EU has set itself the goal of building 40 GW of electrolysis capacity for the production of renewable electricity based hydrogen by 2030. Germany alone wants to build up to 5 GW by 2030, and 10 GW by 2040 at the latest.

Both the German Hydrogen Strategy as well as the long-term Renovation Strategy of the German government refer to the use of hydrogen to decarbonise the heat market. 1 However, various stakeholders are arguing for hydrogen use to be restricted to the industry and the transport sector for the following reasons:

  • insufficient availability of hydrogen for all sectors (hydrogen as a "scarce commodity");
  • better alternatives than hydrogen for decarbonisation in the heat market, particularly by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings ("building envelope") and increasing the energy efficiency of heating systems,  especially in the form of electric heat pumps; and
  • Lack of technical or economically viable alternatives to hydrogen for decarbonising applications in some industries, and for some modes of transport such as long-haul air and sea transport.



12 October 2021

Climate Action