Labour delegates attending Anas Sarwar’s party conference this week will be urged to support the Scottish Government turning its back on Patrick Harvie’s heat pumps strategy and instead press ahead with using hydrogen to heat homes.

Bosses at the GMB union, who have been publicly hostile to the Scottish Government’s strategy to clean up how buildings are heated, are calling on Scottish Labour to oppose heat pumps and other renewable heating systems being pursued by Mr Harvie, and instead turn attention to hydrogen – believing it will help safeguard jobs.

But Mr Harvie has told The Herald that hydrogen “is not expected to play a central role in heating buildings”.

An independent study commissioned and published by WWF Scotland last year concluded that using hydrogen for heating was a “distraction” and called for the focus to be put on other methods, primarily heat pumps.

Read more: Patrick Harvie demands Tories halt U-turn on key heat pumps regulation

The Scottish Government is focusing on scaling up heat networks and making heat pumps more affordable with grants for the devices and for home insulation being made available.

Regulatory responsibility for allowing hydrogen for heating to be boosted rests with the UK Government.

But in December, UK ministers backed plans to ban gas and “hydrogen-ready” boilers from newbuild homes south of the Border from 2025 after a study found there was “no practical way to allow the installation of fossil fuel boilers while also delivering significant carbon savings”.

In October, the National Infrastructure Commission concluded that hydrogen was not suitable for heating homes, insisting that “there is no public policy case for hydrogen to be used to heat individual buildings”.

Explained: What is green hydrogen and where can it be used?

The commission’s research found that “it should be ruled out as an option to enable an exclusive focus on switching to electrified heat”.

The Scottish Government’s hydrogen action plan, published in December 2022, suggested “there is some scope for hydrogen to support parts of our domestic heating systems”.

Concerns have also been raised about hydrogen being a suitable focus for zero emissions heating systems.

Green hydrogen is produced by renewable electricity powering a process called electrolysis which splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

The Herald: The process for green hydrogenThe process for green hydrogen (Image: SGN)

But the cheaper and more widely used strain of hydrogen involved splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon, with the harmful carbon by-product stopped from entering the atmosphere by carbon capture technology.

The Scottish Government believes it can be a green hydrogen exporter, forecasting the industry could boost the economy by £25 billion.

Read more: Concerns over SNP ministers' 'greenwashing' hydrogen lobbying meetings

Bosses from the GMB union, which represents energy workers in Scotland, will table a motion at Scottish Labour conference on Friday, calling for more focus to be put on hydrogen for heating.

The motion to be tabled at Scottish Labour’s conference in Glasgow this weekend, seen by The Herald, will back “deep concern” over the Scottish Government’s heat in buildings plans, claiming the strategy “proposes banning gas boilers and forcing onto households untested systems such as heat pumps which come with higher installation and running costs”.

It adds that “the existing, vast and skilled gas workforce and 280,000km gas network” could be “be reskilled and repurposed to provide low and no-carbon hydrogen to homes”.

Mr Harvie, the Scottish Government’s Zero Carbon Buildings Minister, has launched a consultation that will phase out fossil fuel gas boilers by 2045, when Scotland has pledged to become net zero.

The GMB motion calls on the Scottish Government to “meet net zero targets by investing in hydrogen home heating and a planned rollout of home insulation starting in the lowest income communities” instead of “banning gas heating and forcing the installation of costly heating systems”.

Read more: Scotland's £25bn green hydrogen strategy to power German industry

The motion also states that “conference condemns the planned closure of refining operations at Grangemouth and loss of hundreds of jobs which will undermine Scotland’s energy independence and security”.

It claims that a just transition “has led to redundancies caused by loose talk from politicians without a robust industrial and energy strategy”.

Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland secretary, has urged both UK and Scottish governments to move with far more pace and conviction to exploit the economic opportunities of renewables.

She said: “We have heard too much talk about just transitions when the only things in transition are green jobs going abroad.

“The need for industrial strategies gets more urgent with every contract that goes overseas.

“We need plans for wind, nuclear and hydrogen that are underpinned with investment and capable of building supply chains, creating well-paid jobs and protecting our communities.”

Analysis: Mairi McAllan overseeing Scotland’s economy is a net zero no-brainer

Ms Gilmour added: “We have a skilled and experienced workforce that could be reskilled and a 280,000km home supply network that could be repurposed for low and no carbon hydrogen but are doing nothing about it.

“There must be vision, commitment, investment and procurement policies to ensure manufacturing jobs are created in Scotland.

“We must do more and better and that will demand politicians capable of making and delivering plans to deliver net zero not just talking about it.”

Mr Harvie has stressed that Scotland “has the most generous package of funding available to households that want to switch to climate-friendly heating systems in the UK”.

The Herald: Green Scottish Government Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick HarvieGreen Scottish Government Zero Carbon Buildings Minister Patrick Harvie (Image: PA)
He said: “The Scottish Government’s hydrogen action plan, published in December 2022, sets out the strategic approach and actions required to support the development of this hydrogen economy in Scotland over the course of this parliament.

“However hydrogen is not expected to play a central role in heating buildings, and any use in the gas grid depends upon strategic decisions by the UK Government that will be made over the coming years.

"We will continue to urge the UK Government to accelerate decision-making, but we cannot afford to delay action to decarbonise homes this decade through the technologies which already exist and work well.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: "Scottish Labour Conference is an opportunity for debate and motions covering a range of topics will be tabled for discussion."