THE SCOTTISH Government’s clean energy strategy has been dealt a blow after research found that hydrogen will not have a major role in the future of heating homes across the UK.

The peer-reviewed report found that not one of the independent research pieces it identified thought there would be widespread use of the fuel in central heating systems.

Under the Scottish Government’s current strategy, ministers hope to generate 5GW of power by 2030 and 45GW by 2045, when Scotland will become net zero.

Critics have warned over the costs of green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, while blue and grey hydrogen still requires fossil fuel gas as fuel.

The stark report said that using hydrogen in domestic heating is less economic, less efficient, more resource intensive and has a bigger environmental impact than many alternatives.

These include heat pumps, using solar thermal panels which heat water directly in the sunlight, and district heating – where whole blocks or neighbourhoods are supplied through the same hot water system.

The research, which will be published in academic journal Joule, was carried out by Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project think tank in Brussels.

“Using hydrogen for heating may sound attractive at first glance,” he said.

“However, all of the independent research on this topic comes to the same conclusion: heating with hydrogen is a lot less efficient and more expensive than alternatives such as heat pumps, district heating and solar thermal.

“Rather than hoping for hydrogen to eventually be able to replace fossil gas used for heating our buildings we should focus on speeding up the roll-out of energy efficiency and heat pumps, technologies consistently identified as critical for reducing carbon emissions from buildings.”

Proponents of hydrogen for heating say that the gas could tap into the existing natural gas pipelines that currently connect to most homes in the UK.

They also believe that it would be easier to reconfigure homes to run with hydrogen boilers.

The Scottish Greens, who entered into a co-operation agreement with the SNP at Holyrood last year, remain sceptical about scaling up the technology instead of prioritising other sustainable methods, despite the keenness of Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

Scottish Greens environment and energy spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “Green hydrogen made from renewable energy will be a precious resource that is needed to decarbonise shipping and industrial sectors.

“It would be an expensive folly to waste green hydrogen to heat hot water when electricity is more cost effective.

“Blue hydrogen made from expensive natural gas makes no sense and will build dependency on fossil fuels at the wrong time.”

A hydrogen pilot in Fife, the H100 scheme was expected to be the world's first green hydrogen project for heating homes.

Under the SGN project,  300 homes in Methil, Buckhaven and Levenmouth were planned to be powered by green hydrogen gas from next year.

But the project has been hit with delays due to "global supply chains".

An SGN spokesperson said: "Our world-first H100 Fife hydrogen gas network is progressing well.

"Since the early stages of the project, we’ve been meeting regularly with a community liaison group of key local people, including councillors, council officers, community groups and charities who represent the community to ensure this project is delivered with the local community in mind.

"While delays caused by global supply chain constraints are out with our control, we’re committed to working with our suppliers and partners to mitigate these and deliver hydrogen to customers at the earliest opportunity.

"Construction will continue through 2022 and 2023 with commissioning activities and hydrogen to the first customers to follow thereafter."

On the eve of COP26 last year, the Herald revealed that SNP ministers were ramping up pressure on the UK Government to "accelerate” the development of clean hydrogen after fears emerged Scotland was “frittering away” the potential of scaling up the industry.

The move came after the UK Government announced that a “final decision” on blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas grid will not be made until the end of 2023.

Under the Scottish Government’s current hydrogen policy, points to “the need for pace” in developing the industry.

The SNP’s strategy highlights investment in blue hydrogen projects in the 2020s and building up to green hydrogen production at scale by 2045, when Scotland has legally committed to become net-zero.

The policy statement claims that “Scotland’s unique selling points” - its natural resources, infrastructure and skilled energy workforce will “enable us to could "become the producer of lowest cost hydrogen in Europe by 2045”.

An updated energy strategy was due to be published in the spring, but has been delayed until later this year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are clear that hydrogen has an important role to play in our journey to a net zero economy, by supporting the bold, urgent action required to deliver cleaner, greener energy and also by supporting a just transition – creating good, green jobs for our highly skilled workforce.

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to helping the hydrogen sector develop and grow and we are investing £100 million in renewable hydrogen projects over this parliament.

"The H100Fife project, which will deliver a first-of-a-kind 100% hydrogen heat network supplying around 300 domestic properties with clean, green hydrogen heating, is a critical step towards understanding the role hydrogen can play in decarbonising heat using the gas network.

“We are meanwhile investing at least £1.8 billion over this parliament to decarbonise homes and buildings, including support to help households with the upfront cost of investing in energy efficiency and zero emission heating systems.”