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Gas industry calls for support for hydrogen as Ofgem hedges bets on decarbonisation

The Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM) has ‘cautiously welcomed’ energy regulator Ofgem’s Decarbonisation Action Plan, which appears to hedge its bets over future hydrogen and electricity plans

The Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM) has given a cautious welcome to Ofgem’s Decarbonisation Action Plan, which appears to hedge its bets over the best route to Net Zero emissions and not back one single path. However, IGEM warned that ‘ripping out the central heating’ - going to an electric-only grid - was not a feasible option for government.

Ofgem’s introduction to the report contains a number of ’mays’ and ‘mights’. It said: ”To meet net zero, Britain will see changes to the way homes and businesses are heated. This might include using hydrogen boilers or electricity to power heat pumps, and may see more customers connected to heat networks. Ofgem will use its expertise to work closely with government as it develops its strategy to decarbonise heat.”

Neil Atkinson, IGEM’s Chief Executive, said in response: “We cautiously welcome the plan, which states broadly what everyone else has been saying about the path to net zero emissions by 2050; that in order to successfully tackle UK decarbonisation that we need to have a coordinated response from the gas, electricity and transport industries and all corresponding branches of government. However, there are no magic bullets when it comes to the future of heating, power and transport. There will not be a fully electric solution…”

Mr Atkinson said IGEM agrees with the Committee on Climate Change on the need for a mix of solutions for the whole energy system including electricity, low carbon gas and renewables. He said: ”Hydrogen and other low carbon gases such as biomethane will provide transport solutions and will provide clean, green energy to the home. Heat networks and hybrid heat pump solutions will also play a role in the transition from natural gas to hydrogen.”

But, he stressed, it does not mean ’ripping out gas central heating from every home.’ He warned: ”Whatever paths we choose, our decisions must be balanced against their feasibility and resilience, their acceptability to the consumer and their cost, especially for the poorest customers, many of whom already struggle to heat their homes within their budgets.”

IGEM added that the transition to a hydrogen gas network is also highly supportive of the widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, applying gas infrastructure at the forecourt.

Mr Atkinson said: “There is an increasing body of evidence to show that the UK can transition from natural gas to hydrogen in the late 2020s, providing customers with a low cost, low carbon and highly resilient heat system, with minimal disruption to their everyday lives. With the right funding in research and demonstration, and investment in pre-transition activities, the UK gas industry can lead the world towards a net zero future. IGEM is excited about the prospect of converting our current gas transmission and distribution systems to hydrogen and, as support for this low carbon source grows, we will continue to support the industry as it seeks to prove the safety case for its adoption.”




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