Mike Foster, chief executive, the Energy and Utilities Alliance Customers, Energy networks, Gas transmission/distribution, Policy & regulation, Opinion, biogas, hydrogen

"The only sensible, cost-effective and deliverable solution is to decarbonise the hard-to-tackle heat sector by greening our gas"

On Monday 26 November 2018, cross-party think tank Carbon Connect launched “Future Gas Series Part 3”. The “Future Gas Series” project examines the opportunities and challenges associated with using low-carbon gas – hydrogen and biogases – to help decarbonise the UK economy.

Part 1 – “Next Steps for the Gas Grid” – detailed the issues related to the gas distribution network and the potential to repurpose it to use low-carbon gas. Part 2 – “The Production of Low-Carbon Gas” – considered the different production technologies, the potential scale of deployment of each method, and the sources and feedstocks. It also discussed issues related to the bulk transport and storage of gas.

The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) is delighted to be sponsoring “Future Gas Series Part 3”, which examines issues related to consumers and the development of appliances. Consumers must be front and centre of future heat strategy, and the industry must consider what the consumer really wants and if it can be delivered?

EUA believes that the only sensible, cost-effective and deliverable solution, for the vast majority of homes, is to decarbonise the hard-to-tackle heat sector by “greening” our gas. The energy trilemma – a phrase that rightly describes the difficulty in balancing the competing demands of affordability, reliability, and sustainability – should be set against the UK’s particular needs.

There is no easy option for the UK. All means to decarbonise will cost consumers, but it is imperative to keep these costs to a minimum by utilising existing assets wherever possible.

As a result of natural gas abundance, the UK has the world’s leading gas grid infrastructure in place, directly supplying the energy to heat 85 per cent of UK homes. It would be a travesty not to use this existing infrastructure as part of the solution to the trilemma, and “green” gas, including biomethane, BioSNG and hydrogen, could be the key.

Heat demand is, not surprisingly, seasonal, but its peaks during the winter either need to be met by supply, or people will go cold, and no politician I know wants that. Switching away from gas heating will mean households face considerable up-front costs, which are simply unaffordable. Not to mention the upheaval as heating systems are ripped out.

This latest “Future Gas Series” report is arguably the key report of the trio as it examines consumers’ thoughts and choices as we seek to decarbonise heat. It asks questions such as: “what do consumers think about low carbon gas for heating, and heating in general?”; “how far can consumer choice be allowed to be exercised in the process of decarbonising heat?”; and “how much are consumers willing to pay to decarbonise the heat they use?”.

EUA and its members will continue to help shape the future policy direction within the energy sector. Founded in 1905 EUA has been at the heart of the energy industry for more than 100 years as the leading industry voice, using our reach and experience to create the conditions in which sensible and effective energy policy is developed.

The call for evidence can be found here

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