Plans for a pilot 'hydrogen village' in the UK have been completely halted, nearly a year after proposals to launch one in Ellesmere Port were scrapped.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) said it would not progress with the hydrogen town pilot until after 2026, when “strategic decisions” on the role of hydrogen in decarbonising heat will be made.

Proposals for a pilot town heated by hydrogen instead of polluting natural gas were first outlined as part of Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan in 2020 for a “green industrial revolution” to cut climate emissions to zero overall, known as net zero.

And in 2022 gas distribution networks were invited to put forward outline plans for a scheme involving at least 10,000 properties, for the Government to deliver plans by 2025 for a possible pilot hydrogen town by the end of the decade.

But a number of studies and experts have said hydrogen – which can be low carbon, depending on how it is produced, and potentially piped through the existing gas network into buildings for use in hydrogen boilers – will only have a small role to play in heating homes and other buildings in the future.

Last year, the National Infrastructure Commission recommended the Government should not support the rollout of hydrogen heating.

The move to halt plans for a hydrogen town come after proposals for two hydrogen villages, in Redcar and Whitby, Ellesmere Port, which faced local opposition, were abandoned.

The Government said low carbon hydrogen may have a role to play in heat decarbonisation, alongside heat pumps and heat networks, “but in slower time in some locations”.

Energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan said: “We have decided not to progress work on a hydrogen town pilot until after 2026 decisions on the role of hydrogen for heating.

“Heat pumps and heat networks will be the main route to cutting household emissions for the foreseeable future.”

Responding to the announcement, Juliet Phillips, from climate policy think tank E3G, said: “Discussions on hydrogen for heating are an unhelpful distraction that muddy the waters on the future of how we heat our homes.

“Today’s decision makes clear that all attention and investment should be focused on readily available clean heat solutions, like heat pumps and heat networks.”

She said green hydrogen – a low carbon source of the gas made using renewable power – was likely to be an “expensive and scarce resource” which needed to be reserved for niche applications in industry, power and transport.

“Widespread use of hydrogen for heating is widely understood to be an extremely expensive and inefficient way to meet net zero targets, which could exacerbate fuel poverty,” she warned.

“Attention now needs to be turned to how we can ensure a fair and well-managed transition away from fossil gas – considering how to support jobs and decommission parts of the network,” she added.

A spokesperson for the UK gas distribution networks said: “We welcome the clarity which has been provided on a potential hydrogen heating town and continue to support the need to make use of a range of energy solutions if we are to reach net zero in a fair and affordable way for customers that maintains choice.

“As an industry, we will keep working closely with the Government to provide the evidence and expertise required to make an informed decision on the future decarbonisation of home heating.”