Switching over the gas network to hydrogen and other green gases could start immediately, Labour’s energy spokesman has said.

Alan Whitehead told the launch meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on hydrogen, which took place at the House of Commons on Tuesday, that the non-greenhouse gas can play a ‘substantial role’ in decarbonising heat, which alongside transport is the main obstacle to cutting UK emissions.

“Injecting into the system is something we can do pretty effectively from now onwards to start decarbonising.”

The shadow energy minister said the decarbonisation of the gas grid could be kick-started ‘fairly quickly’ by substituting hydrogen and other gases like bio-methane.

But he said that 20 per cent is the maximum proportion of hydrogen which could be injected into the grid without having to alter equipment such as burners and boilers.

Whitehead also said there was potential to substantially increase hydrogen production through the process of electrolysis, by using surplus electricity generated from renewable sources.

“We could be paying wind farms not to produce electricity but to make hydrogen to put into the system.

“Hydrogen has a big role as long as we can get those production issues sorted out.”

At the same meeting, Sir Edward Davey said that hydrogen must be part of a diverse range of solutions to decarbonise the heating system.

Admitting that he is more convinced about its potential now than when he was secretary of state for energy and climate change during the coalition government, Sir Edward said: “The government has made the right noises but needs to go further and faster in exploring the potential of hydrogen.

“They need to be bolder on testing projects at scale and get behind them. They need to really push harder at R&D in universities to see if we can reduce the cost of production.

“It’s impossible to see proper decarbonisation without CCS (carbon capture storage) and hydrogen being part of the story,” he said, adding that pursuing the alternative option of electrifying heat would result in the gas grid becoming an expensive ‘stranded asset’.