Britain’s gas networks have today unveiled proposals to invest over £900m in developing net zero infrastructure over the coming five years as part of the UK’s coronavirus recovery efforts, with a major focus on ramping up the use of biomethane and hydrogen for heating, cooking, industry, and transport. The plan would see £904m invested in projects across Britain between 2021 and 2026 to prepare the gas grid for a switchover from using methane natural gas – a fossil fuel – to instead use zero carbon hydrogen and biomethane in support of the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target. The five companies behind the plan – Cadent, National Grid, NGN, SGN, and Wales & West Utilities – are together seeking approval for their strategy from the government and Ofgem, as decisions on energy network investment are made by the regulator and dependent on national policy. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) urged the government to back the plan, which would see £446m spent on new network infrastructure projects to enable the domestic and industrial use of hydrogen, including £391m for carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) development in North West England, Aberdeenshire, and the Isle of Grain in Kent. Another £264m is earmarked for cost-cutting projects to expand capacity of local gas networks to connect more hydrogen and biomethane generation facilities, develop transport refuelling stations, and ensure energy network operators are fully prepared to manage greener gas technologies. The ENA claimed research it has released today estimates that the £182bn of investment needed to create a zero carbon gas grid using hydrogen would save British billpayers £89bn in total by 2050 compared to continuing to use the current methane gas grid. Moreover, it argues transitioning infrastructure to run on hydrogen can further support decarbonisation of carbon intensive industry, transport, power, and heat. Last week trade body RenewableUK also touted the benefits of hydrogen produced using wind energy, arguing that scaling up such efforts could help renewables provide more than three quarters of UK power by 2050. But despite the myriad potential uses and climate benefits of hydrogen if it is produced from renewable energy – and is therefore zero carbon – some experts remain sceptical that its offers the most cost effective route to decarbonising heating, particularly given the scale of effort required to modify Britain’s vast gas network system. Advocates of electric heating and heat pumps maintain that in many circumstances electrification offers a more effective route to decarbonising building heating, which would ensure the emerging green hydrogen industry could focus on serving harder to decarbonise sectors such as industry, heavy transport, and perhaps even shipping and aviation.
Business Green 28th May 2020 read more »