This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

John Armstrong's picture
Chief Operating Officer BPA

John Armstrong is an engineer whose career has spanned the extremes of the energy industry – giving him a front-row seat on the energy roller-coaster. He began his career constructing oil...

  • Member since 2019
  • 89 items added with 78,969 views
  • May 17, 2021
  • 668 views

The Hydrogen vs Heat Pump debate is going to go on for a little while! It definitely polarises 'green' opinion. For various reasons heat pumps haven't really got traction - despite significant direct subsidy - so if heat pumps aren't working then hydrogen becomes a logical pathway for heat. I can certainly see both sides of the argument on this topic however I do think clarity of pathway is now really important to enable investment both at the local and national level.

John Armstrong's picture
Thank John for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Discussions
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 17, 2021

Is there perhaps a challenge about trying to capture new buildings vs. existing buildings and how the difference in what makes sense in those cases impacts messaging? 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 23, 2021

Heat pumps for home heating have a serious problem in that they promise to be environmentally friendly in the future, but are often a dirty option today! In my town, over a third of the electricity on a cold winter day comes from burning coal, which makes heat from electricity much dirtier than that of fossil gas (maybe similar for CO2, but definitely higher for particulates, SO2, mercury, etc).

Hydrogen heating has the drawback today that it can only be affordable when made from fossil fuel, and the emissions control for such a production has yet to be proven.

It is a pity that Greens are hesitant to endorse nuclear energy.  Waste heat (the cheapest heat source we have!) from nuclear plants could be used in district heat networks; this method provides heat that is safe and clean at both the point-of-use, as well as the production site.  And the waste products of the heat production are all safely, reliably, and verifiably contained in non-volatile solid form at the plant.

Of course another attribute of heat networks is that they are heat-source agnostic.  They can just as easily be powered by any combination of geothermal energy, hydrogen, ammonia, fossil fuel with CC&S, or even electric heat pumps.  Note that heat pumps are much more grid-friendly when coupled to heat networks, as the networks can use insulated water tanks to add very cheap energy storage to the system; as a results, less use of peaking power plants is needed (these are often the least efficient and dirtiest type).

Heat pumps are great for rural areas and warm climates.  But for northern cities, it is hard to beat the environmental sustainability of heat networks.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 24, 2021

Heat pumps for home heating have a serious problem in that they promise to be environmentally friendly in the future, but are often a dirty option today! In my town, over a third of the electricity on a cold winter day comes from burning coal, which makes heat from electricity much dirtier than that of fossil gas (maybe similar for CO2, but definitely higher for particulates, SO2, mercury, etc).

This is definitely important to realize and take into account, but it's shortsighted to say that means we shouldn't be implementing the heat pumps in new/retrofit homes now. It was similar to the argument a few years back that EVs were actually dirtier than ICE cars in places with particularly dirty grids. While that was true, there's value and importance in building out the stock/fleet of electrified alternatives because they'll be out in the field for many many years, and over those years it will be assured that those grids are only going to continue to get cleaner and cleaner. I suspect if you do the lifecycle impact analysis of a heat pump installed in your town now compared with gas heating, by the end of the expected life of the heat pump it will have been a net win for reducing emissions. 

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »