The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants the UK at the front of this race, seeking to generate 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
Dr Thom Koller, the Programme Lead for ENA's Gas Goes Green programme shares his views
Britain’s energy landscape is changing, and new smart technologies are changing the way in which we consume energy. Our power system is becoming much more flexible, needing more customer buy-in than ever before. Minimising the disruption to the consumer is critical, as is educating them on these new products and services all whilst retaining their trust in the industry and even appliances upon which they rely, including their boilers
Ever since the late 1960s/70s, gas boilers became the de facto solution for heating as - thanks to abundant and cheap North Sea gas - they were the obvious solution at that time. However, those boilers now make up a significant part of the UK’s emissions with heat and buildings making up over a third of our carbon footprint.
As the Prime Minister made clear in his Ten Point Plan, heat-pumps will play an important role in heating homes in the future. However, heat-pumps won’t work everywhere, and we need to ensure people have a choice of different technologies, so they can pick the one that best suits their home. Instead, we can replace the natural gas we currently burn with zero carbon hydrogen. Doing so will reduce the carbon emissions we currently cause through heating and cooking in our homes as well as in transportation and heavy industry.
In homes, hydrogen will be used in the same way as natural gas is now. Once hydrogen-ready boilers are deployed there will also be a simple switch-over between fuel sources. A hydrogen-ready boiler will cost roughly the same as a normal gas boiler and running Britain’s energy system on both hydrogen and electricity will save billpayers £13bn a year by 2050 compared to a full electrification scenario.
Household cookers and gas boilers are already capable of managing a gas mix of up to 20% of hydrogen without any impact on the way people use those appliances. The annual carbon emissions saving will be the equivalent of taking up to 2.5m cars off the road. Gas networks are on track to start blending gas into the supply to a small town from 2021.
Through our Gas Goes Green programme ENA will soon be publishing Britain’s Hydrogen Network Plan. It will set out how networks can deliver the Prime Minister’s hydrogen ambitions for homes, transport, industry and power. Focussing on four key tenets of safety, security, serving customers and creating a resilient supply chain, this will be a roadmap to a future where we have shifted away from polluting sources of power and heat, and towards the solutions which will serve the generations to come.
The Government is also publishing its own Hydrogen Strategy in early 2021 and we will be working with them to make sure that the full benefits of this transformational fuel are realised.
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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.