Today is Green Gas Day. So, what role can hydrogen play in supporting biomethane, ENA’s Gas Goes Green Champion, Chris Train, asks?
Whilst much of the focus remains on flagship hydrogen policies, gas network companies are also making the case for the crucial role that other green gases, such as biomethane produced from farm waste and sewage sites, have to play in working with hydrogen to meet our 2050 net zero emissions target.
Using more biomethane can form part of a shift to a smarter, more flexible system of gas networks, using the latest technology to use different mixes with hydrogen in different parts of the country.
Working alongside electrification, hydrogen and biomethane grid infrastructure for our homes will also support the roll-out of new green technologies in our communities beyond our doorstep – from delivering the fuel for biomethane heavy goods vehicles to providing the hydrogen needed for low carbon heavy industrial processes.
Our Pathway to Net Zero sees about two-thirds of gas consumption today replaced with a mixture of hydrogen and biomethane. Of that, a third of that gas would be biomethane, with it playing an important role in domestic heat, freight transportation and dispatchable electricity generation in particular. It is an essential partner to hydrogen.
Because it can be locally produced in our towns, cities and communities, it can be used in those areas where hydrogen production might be more difficult.
So, what do we need to do to make that a reality?
Safety trials have proven that the time is right to amend the regulations that determine how much biomethane & hydrogen can be fed into the gas grid.
For biomethane in particular, this means changing the regulations, so they reduce unnecessary costs by removing the requirement to add propane to biomethane that’s fed into the grid, which is expensive and adds to carbon emissions. They must also change so they ensure that people get accurate bills, because new types of gas carry energy in different ways.
With the right changes to energy billing regulations, with more biomethane, homes and businesses won’t notice a difference to the way they use their gas – nor will they have to change their boilers or cookers to use it.
We also need the Government to be far more ambitious in providing financial support for biomethane generators through policy, in the same way it has done for renewable electricity generators. Ensuring that Government policy sufficiently incentivises the injection of biomethane into the gas grid over the ‘flaring’ of waste gas is also important.
Because they tend to be connected to local gas grids, biomethane gas producers can help drive a local energy revolution. Replacing natural gas with locally produced biomethane will allow the UK to make the most of its natural resources to meet its energy needs.
So, by changing our gas networks’ systems and using new sources of data, we want to make our local gas grids more flexible, moving from a system where the gas just flows from one direction to one where it is able to move around in other directions to meet demand. This flexibility will make it easier to connect more biomethane production plants to the grid, for less money. It forms part of our work to build a smarter, more integrated energy system.
We also want to simplify connections to the grid for biomethane producers by creating a standard set of terms and conditions, helping bring down their costs in the process, as Gas Goes Green is now doing through our Entry Customer Forums.
Taken together, with a strong suite of Government policy support, easier gas network connections and a more flexible grid, we want to see biomethane supply increase from 3TWh in 2018 to 22 TWh in 2030.
So whilst the Government’s eye is now firmly on the prize of a hydrogen economy, let’s not forget the role that other green gases like biomethane have to play and the wider economic benefits and impacts they can have on the communities around us. They're another example of how tomorrow's heat is today's opportunity.
Notes to editor
Gas Goes Green #H2Explainers are a series of blogs setting all the key information you need to know about how Britain’s gas networks are working to deliver hydrogen to our homes, as part of our 'Tomorrow's Heat, Today's Opportunity' campaign. Check out the ENA Newsroom to find other articles and updates from both gas and electricity network companies.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate 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 Grid 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 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).