LiviusElectric heating with heat pumps and electric driving… Electricity seems to be the ideal way to reduce CO2 emissions. But is this really the way forward? Or should we choose hydrogen? Will we achieve European climate targets on time? Livios construction site She turned to energy specialist Ronnie Bellmans, co-founder of the EnergyVille Research Institute. He shares his frank opinion. “Hydrogen is much less safe than natural gas.”
There is a lot of belief in electricity as (part of) the solution to the energy issue, including Ronnie Belmans. “We can power everything with electricity, today and tomorrow, except air traffic and long-distance shipping.” However, stories about hydrogen appear regularly.
Hydrogen to heat your home: Is it a good and affordable alternative to natural gas?
Is hydrogen a better alternative than electricity?
“The short answer? No. Now let's say you were to drive a hydrogen-powered car. Then you first need electricity to produce the hydrogen, and then the car converts it back into electrical energy. After that, you will use three times as much electricity per kilometer as if you were driving directly on Electricity: Hydrogen is pure electricity in disguise.
Okay, but what if you use green energy for this purpose? The wind and sun directly provide electricity, which you can convert into hydrogen. “Yes, but that's also unnecessary: you already have electricity, so why convert it to hydrogen first?”
What about the so-called white natural hydrogen that we find more and more in the ground? “If we can extract usable white hydrogen, which is not yet certain, we should use it for things where hydrogen is better used. For example, producing green kerosene for aircraft, or steel.
Ignore the real problem
In addition, we already have an extensive electricity distribution network today, notes Ronnie Bellmans. “Of course we need to strengthen the electricity grid, but it's still really there. On the other hand, if you want to bring hydrogen into people's homes, you have to adapt gas distribution, with a completely new hydrogen infrastructure. On top of that, hydrogen is much less safe.” “From natural gas. If it is possible to do it with electricity, and everyone is convinced of that, then you should move towards electricity.”
However, in 2022, we read how Brussels gas network company Sibelga wants to use hydrogen to heat buildings. “Yes, because the quality of the electricity grid in Brussels is a disgrace. By focusing on hydrogen, the government is trying to hide it so that it does not have to do its job. The Flemish grid operator Fluvius works on its own electricity grid.”
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More confidence in heating networks and pumps
What Ronnie Bellmans believes in, besides green electricity, are heat networks and pumps. “With one unit of electricity you can only get half a unit of heat in the house from hydrogen. But if you control a heat pump with one unit of electricity, you will get three to five units of heat from the air, the ground or the heating network. Or Ten times more than with hydrogen. Read more about the advantages, cost price and operation of the heating network here.
“The problem is: How can we get everyone involved in the investments we need to make? To achieve this, the government must provide financial support to those who need it most. Certainly not to those who are already warm today. The stupidest thing I have seen recently is subsidies for electric cars. “This only helps the rich. Please renovate the social housing areas with heat pumps, not doing so is stupid.”
Do we meet deadlines?
By 2030, we must reduce CO2 consumption by 49 percent compared to 1990. By 2050, the built environment must be CO2-neutral. Will we achieve this? “No,” answers Ronnie Bellmans. “That is clear. But we must continue to do our best. While our politicians go with all the winds. As a politician, do not protest what Europe imposes. See how you can achieve this, without leaving anyone behind, through deliberate measures that do not cancel each other out.” “The best that can happen is for the government to do nothing on energy for the next five years. Let technology develop, while weaker policy helps develop.”
Climate neutral living by 2050: Is this still a possible challenge?
This article was written by our partner Livios.be. Livios.be is a specialized site focused on construction and renovation.
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