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Gas networks set to slash grid emissions

03 August 2020

Press contacts for journalists

Peter Kocen

Senior Press and Public Affairs Manager

+44 (0)7792 220 974

ENA Press Office

New figures show the equivalent of 500,000 cars to be taken off the road. 

Replacing old, iron gas pipes with hydrogen and biomethane-ready plastic pipes will help cut carbon emissions and deliver the world's first zero-carbon gas grid.

Britain’s homes and businesses are set to benefit from an emissions reduction bonanza over the next 12 years as a result of gas network company investment, according to new figures published by Energy Networks Association (ENA) today.

The figures, published as part of ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme, show that by 2032, investment in replacing old iron mains gas mains pipes with new hydrogen and biomethane-ready pipes will have taken the equivalent of 526,433 cars off the road since 2014, as a result of reduced methane natural gas emissions.

The investment forms part of the Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme, which replaces old iron gas pipelines in Britain’s low-pressure gas networks with hydrogen and biomethane-ready piping made from plastic. Bringing together all of Britain’s gas network companies, ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme will deliver the world’s first zero carbon gas grid by moving Britain's gas network infrastructure from delivering methane-based natural gas to zero-carbon hydrogen and biomethane.

The impact of methane on global warming is 21 times greater than that of CO2, with about quarter of manmade global warming attributed to it. The figures demonstrate the CO2-equivalent impact of reducing methane natural gas emissions from Britain’s world-leading network of gas pipelines, which supply heating, cooking and hot water to 23 million properties across the country. Over 85% of properties in Great Britain are connected to the network, which has 284,000km of pipelines.

Providing a regional breakdown across, England, Scotland and Wales, the figures also show that:

  • The Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme has already reduced emissions by more than a fifth (22.4%) since it began in 2014, the equivalent of taking 179,123 cars off the road.
  • By 2032, if investment plans are approved by Ofgem, the energy regulator, emissions will further drop by more than half (55.6%), the equivalent to taking an additional 347,310 cars off the road since 2020.
  • In total, between 2014 and 2032 the programme will have invested £28bn in creating a hydrogen-ready gas grid in towns, villages and communities across the country. Existing Ofgem figures show that for the period of 2013-21, gas network companies are forecast to bring-in the costs of replacing iron mains more than 10% (11.4%) lower than those agreed, saving consumers £1.3bn in the process.
  • By 2032, the programme will have achieved a 66% reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions from the gas grid.

Commenting, David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, said:

“Britain’s world-leading gas network allows us all to reliably access the energy we rely upon quickly and easily, often when we need it the most. It guarantees people’s comfort in our homes whilst providing the lifeblood that our businesses need to grow.

“But we need to decarbonise the gas that we use. And an investment programme that was first introduced in 2002 to improve safety is now playing a vital role in reducing emissions and laying the foundations for a world-leading zero carbon gas grid, coming in on-time and under budget.”

The emissions reductions forecasts from 2021 to 2026 are based on investment plans submitted to the energy regulator, Ofgem, as part of the RIIO-2 price control of energy network companies. The regulator published its draft decision on the plans in July, with ENA concerned that the decision would meant the UK would lack the investment it needs to meet its Net Zero ambitions.

David Smith continues:

“The figures we’re publishing today come with one caveat. The emissions reductions we can deliver going forward are dependent on the decisions due to be made by Ofgem, and its important that the regulator recognises the wider impact of it’s decisions in this area. If it fails to back that investment, then not only do we risk missing out on those reductions; we risk missing out in having the infrastructure we need to put Britain at the front of the pack of the international race for hydrogen.”

Notes to editor

36,000 jobs energise the economy

Directly employing around 36,000 people with many more contractors, the energy networks have a vital role in supporting UK plc. The UK is also ranked globally eighth by the World Bank for ease of getting electricity. This is well above countries like the US and France (64th and 17th). Decarbonising gas and new technologies such as hydrogen are allowing companies to become a global leader and develop the high skilled jobs of the future.

9/10 in customer service

Customer service scores recorded by Ofgem for both electricity distribution and gas distribution currently stand at 8.9 out of 10. Electricity network companies also offer additional services to their vulnerable customers and have over seven million customers registered for this support. Gas networks have also connected almost 77,000 households under the Fuel Poor Network Extension Scheme who now have access to cheaper heating.

17% fall in costs since the mid-90s

The cost of transporting a unit of electricity around Britain has fallen by 17% since the mid-1990s. The National Infrastructure Commission has identified up to £8bn per annum savings/efficiency thanks to networks investing in innovative new technologies.

The cost of the gas and electricity network is less than 70p per day per customer

Over £5 billion in savings for consumers has been secured since 2013

Over £100 billion of investment has been delivered by network companies since privatisation. A significant portion of which has been spent with UK companies and their supply chains.

Safety has improved tenfold

Health and safety of the public and network staff is a key priority for the energy network businesses. Total Recordable Incident Rate reporting under RIDDOR for electricity network staff shows a tenfold improvement since 1990.

59% fewer power cuts and 84% shorter

Since privatisation customers have 59% fewer power cuts while their length has been reduced by 84%. Since RIIO-ED1 was introduced in 2015 customers have 14% fewer power cuts while their length has reduced by 10%. An average customer would have a power cut less than every two years which will last for 35 minutes. Gas networks are so reliable that customers would have an unplanned interruption to their supply once every 140 years.

Working towards a carbon-neutral future

The UK government has set a legally binding target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 (2045 in Scotland). The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. Energy networks have responded quickly to the rapid growth of the low carbon transformation. Renewables’ share of total generation was at a record high level of 33.3% in 2018, up from 29.3% in 2017. Over 30GW generation has been connected to the distribution network. Britain is decarbonising gas: over 100 green gas sites are connected to the network.

About Energy Networks Association

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.

ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.

Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.

What are energy network operators?

Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.

More information

Press contacts for journalists

Peter Kocen

Senior Press and Public Affairs Manager

+44 (0)7792 220 974

ENA Press Office


Iron mains replacement infographic