No. Hydrogen and biogas would be less efficient than using renewable electricity in our homes.
The energy output from hydrogen fuel is typically about 65–75% of the electrical energy used to make it (Blanco Reaño). This conversion loss means it is much more efficient for home appliances to use the electricity directly.
When hydrogen gas is burned as a fuel it produces only water and heat (energy), and no greenhouse gases. If the hydrogen is made from water by electrolysis powered by solar or wind energy, then it is a zero-emissions fuel, sometimes called ‘green hydrogen’. But currently, most hydrogen is made from methane gas or coal in processes that produce carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and is therefore almost as polluting as fossil fuels (Rapier). Other methods, such as splitting seawater with sunlight, are still being researched. Like any industrial process, producing hydrogen has environmental impacts in addition to emissions. For instance, making hydrogen requires about 100 litres of water as feedstock and coolant for every kilogram of hydrogen produced, a significant resource and environmental impact that needs to be accounted for (Mehmeti).
Gas networks can only tolerate a maximum of 20% hydrogen blended into existing gas before households would need to install new appliances that would be compatible with hydrogen (Gerhardt). At best, even if that 20% is green hydrogen, the remaining 80% will continue to be polluting fossil fuel gas. It’s like adding a filter to a cigarette or using organic potatoes to make chips, and calling it healthy, despite all the fat and salt and preservatives.
So, while hydrogen might be useful in some areas such as heavy transport fuel or industrial processes, our homes are better powered by renewable electricity.
Biogas or biomethane is technologically more feasible as a replacement for existing gas because it is the same chemical substance – methane. When biogas is captured from sources such as sewage treatment ponds or landfills or pig farms and used on-site to produce electricity, it can help to reduce the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere. However, like fossil gas, when biogas is fed into a distributed network for residential use, it results in fugitive greenhouse gas emissions, causes all the same health and safety issues in our homes, and is a much less efficient energy source than electricity.
Biogas can also be made in methane digesters from organic matter such as food waste or other biomass such as wood and agricultural crops or waste. Burning plant material or food waste destroys the nutrients that could be better returned to the soil as compost. It could also lead to a ‘feed-the-beast’ system where demand for the gas requires increasing amounts of organic waste and new biomass. Ultimately our aim as a society is to reduce waste going to landfill, not increase it to feed a gas network.
Biofuels and green hydrogen may have a useful role to play as fuel for transport and industrial applications. But, given how easy it already is to make our homes and businesses all-electric, powered by zero-emissions solar and wind energy, it makes sense to make the switch from gas to electricity now.