With new details just published by the Government, Gus McIntosh, Director of Energy Futures at SGN, explains what Britain's first Hydrogen Village will look like.
At the end of last year, the Prime Minister unveiled some of the most ambitious proposals yet for growing Britain’s hydrogen economy – including the Government’s commitment to rolling out a ‘hydrogen village’ by 2025.
Fast forward 6 months, and BEIS and Ofgem have just fired the starting gun on the process of commissioning the next step of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, the UK’s first 'Hydrogen Village Trial’, publishing an open letter to the CEOs of Britain’s four gas distribution network companies.
So, what will Britain’s first Hydrogen Village Trial will look like? And what wider role will it play in the roll out of hydrogen?
In the most basic sense, the Trial involves a statistically representative customer base of up to 2,000 occupied homes, offices and other buildings, all using 100% hydrogen for a period of at least 12 months, so the people living and working in those properties can use the gas for their heating, hot water and cooking. There will be a particular focus on how we can repurpose existing gas network infrastructure in the community chosen.
The Trial will build directly on the lessons of other flagship gas network innovation projects, like the world first SGN-led H100 ‘Neighbourhood Trial’ in Fife involving 300 homes, as well as projects such as the H21 test site in Cumbria that has been testing the suitability of existing gas grid infrastructure for 100% hydrogen.
Whilst this Trial is focussed on 100% hydrogen, it will work alongside the industry’s HyDeploy project, which will shortly begin blending up to 20% hydrogen into the public gas network in Gateshead.
It will include a larger number of customers and repurpose the existing gas infrastructure, providing ‘real world’ evidence that will build on the nationally co-ordinated research provided by Energy Networks Association’s Gas Goes Green programme, BEIS Hy4Heat and existing, more focussed gas network innovation project trials.
That means we can gather additional information about what resources we will require for hydrogen network design, installation and maintenance, as well as the practical necessities for preparing both the existing gas grid and buildings for 100% hydrogen, building on the detailed pathway gas network set out earlier this year in Britain’s Hydrogen Network Plan.
It will also take the ground-breaking work done by Leeds Beckett through the H21 project one step further, to better understand people’s experiences, attitudes, and behaviours to using hydrogen, including how we can minimise disruption and inconvenience when switching homes so they can use the gas.
And finally, the Trial will help us gather more evidence on how different seasons and weather will impact the hydrogen conversion process, the operation of a hydrogen network, and the full range of appliances using hydrogen for cooking and heating.
There is another important aspect to the Village Trial too. The scale and breadth of Britain’s world-leading energy networks means that investing to build a zero-carbon gas grid means creating good quality, green jobs, and skills in communities all over the country.
This Trial will help us demonstrate how using hydrogen in Britain’s homes will mean that energy networks invest in our communities as we decarbonise, by building the infrastructure for new green technologies we all need. It will follow the example set by the Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme, which has already installed 40,000 miles of hydrogen-ready pipelines and by 2032 will have delivered £28bn of investment in communities across the country.
Britain’s world-leading Hydrogen Village Trial is yet another example of how tomorrow’s heat is today’s opportunity.
Notes to editor
This article orginally appeared in Utility Week magazine on 30.07.21. 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).