Sep 09, 2021

Natural gas-free living with hydrogen

In 2030, the Netherlands must emit 50% less CO2 than in 1990. Municipalities and RES regions are therefore working hard on their sustainable energy transition and natural gas-free living is an important part of this. There is no ready-made, best solution, but it is rather custom work. For the municipality of Alkmaar and project group De Groene Walvis, TransitionHERO has made a specific plan to make 2,200 homes in Graft-De Rijp gas-free.   

Green hydrogen appears to be the best sustainable alternative to natural gas for most homes, both technically and financially. Only for a number of newly built homes, the choice was a different solution: a heat pump.   

Why is it technically the best solution?  

Few adjustments are needed to connect to hydrogen. In the neighborhoods, the existing gas network can be used and, in the homes, the adjustments are relatively simple too: a new boiler, new gas meter and installation of an induction stove. This can all be done quickly: the boiler (Dual Fuel boiler for both hydrogen and natural gas) can be installed within a day. A major advantage of hydrogen is that you get the house up to temperature quickly. Just as quickly as with natural gas heating. The green transition is supported by a package of energy-saving measures, such as wall insulation, installation of HR++ glass and balanced ventilation.   

Why is it financially the best solution?  

Hydrogen is also the best choice financially. The project in Graft-De Rijp is a collective initiative. An important starting point is that the residents’ energy bills must remain the same and by doing it together, that is possible. An investment is made by the collective, including modifications to the home. Residents no longer pay their energy bills to the energy supplier but to the collective and as a result, they remain the same. An individual approach in this case would often involve higher costs and would be less profitable.  

Natural gas-free customization  

Making a residential area natural gas-free requires a customized approach. What works best differs per neighborhood and even per house. It has to do with insulation, among other things. For a number of recently built houses (after 2000) in Graft-De Rijp, a heat pump proved to be the most cost-effective green alternative to natural gas. This is because of an optimal level of insulation, which means that the (expensive) pump purchase can be recouped relatively quickly.  

For houses built between 1970 and 2000, a hybrid solution (a small heat pump and hydrogen boiler) proved to be the best. Houses built before 1970 (which is most of them) will only be connected to the hydrogen network and will all be made more energy efficient with insulating measures. Other options were also investigated, such as infrared panels, solar collectors and connection to the heat network. These turned out to be not profitable enough.  

Project planning  

The research plan will be completed in the summer of 2021, after a more in-depth study of several technical aspects, the business case and the support base among residents and businesses. If the green light is given, the Green Whale will start the project rollout in 2025. All residents will be able to switch off their natural gas as of 2030.