Second of three cross party reports into heating policy urges government to prioritise and support lower carbon alternatives to natural gas for commercial, industrial and domestic use
Biogases such as biomethane and bioSNG have been put forward as near-term solutions to decarbonise the UK heat industry by switching away from natural gas, yet support is lacking to realise this change, a new cross-party report from Carbon Connect has argued.
The independent forum, which brings together academics, industry and MPs from across the political spectrum, has looked at the current available options to replace natural gas in UK heating systems, as well as the barriers in switching to hydrogen or biogas.
The conclusions come from the second of three reports by Carbon Connect looking into the challenges of overhauling the UK gas grid to meet government ambitions to curb carbon emissions.
An estimated one third of carbon emissions in the UK result from industrial, commercial and domestic heating, according to the report. Switching to lower carbon alternatives is therefore identified by Carbon Connect as being vital to meet wider national environmental strategies, with an estimated 70 per cent of energy used for heating coming from natural gas sources.
Carbon Connect report’s concluded, “Hydrogen could provide huge decarbonisation opportunities and has applications across the energy system, from putting hydrogen in the gas grid to be burnt for heat in homes, to hydrogen buses and trains. However, to realise this potential, a market for hydrogen must be built up.”
“This should incentivise business to invest in hydrogen technologies, reward those who use hydrogen, and build up hydrogen infrastructure.
The report has argued that biogasses, which are chemically similar to natural gas, can be adopted immediately for uses such as heating if the government can ensure sufficient support to ensure these alternatives are competitively priced. This support should also be extended to ensuring appropriate technologies that make use of the gas are on the market, Carbon connect adds.
Other key recommendations in the findings include:
- An alignment between different government departments around waste and energy strategy to tap into potential for sewage and discarded food to produce low carbon gas
- Develop a long-term decarbonisation plan for hydrogen use across the energy system for use in domestic heating and fuelling some transport
- Determine policy to incentivise business to invest in hydrogen and reward its use, production and storage
The report has also urged policymakers to look at key lessons and experiences of the power sector in moving to lower carbon alternatives. This includes understanding the importance of deploying renewable technologies at sufficient scale to ensure a more competitive supply chain and the introduction of much needed standardisation.
Carbon Connect said, “If the UK is to exploit the potential offered by low carbon gases in time to contribute to the 2050 decarbonisation targets it will need to run install production technologies in the near term.”
Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) trade association, said the findings were a welcome reminder of key challenges to be overcome to build up use of low carbon gas.
He said, “Industry has for some time now been looking at ways in which the decarbonisation of heating can be achieved, recognising that there is not a single solution. Given the diversity in the UK’s housing stock, and accounting for individual preference, a one size fits all approach is not appropriate. The report echoes industry sentiments.”
“Industry is on the same page, we know that we must decarbonise in a manner which will be affordable and practical to home and business owners, reducing disruption. Green gas solutions such as biomethane, bioSNG, and hydrogen allow us to utilise the existing, extensive gas grid in the UK to deploy more low carbon solutions with minimum disruption.”
Mr Foster said that the report set out a clear strategy on ensuring a lower carbon approach to heating using gas that now needed to become a political priority in line with the government’s various environmental strategies such as the Clean Growth Plan.