Decarbonising the UK gas network ‘essential to meet net zero emissions’

Decarbonising the existing gas network will be a critical component in plans for the UK to meet its net zero targets, with decarbonisation of the heating sector being one of the most challenging issues. 

So concludes a new report, Pathways to Net Zero prepared by Navigant for the Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the ‘pipes and wires’ transmission and distribution network operating companies. 

The report sets out a plan to deliver a zero carbon gas grid, including the technical, operational and regulatory actions that need to take place to achieve it. This pathway, in which low carbon and renewable gases are used alongside further electrification, could save around £13bn a year compared to relying on an alternative scenario of electricity alone, says the ENA. 

One of the steps that government could easily take would be to mandate new boiler installations to be ‘hydrogen-ready’ when such appliances come to market in the coming years, says the ENA. But this is just one of a suite of actions that should be taken, including: 
  • introducing a comprehensive energy efficiency programme to help keep homes warm and alleviate fuel poverty; 
  • increasing the volume of green gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen, in the system; • providing support for large-scale trials of hydrogen production and smart hybrid heating systems; and 
  • changing gas safety, metering and billing regulations to allow hydrogen into the system. 
The gas network companies are already playing their part, says the ENA, building on their experience which has seen nearly 100 green gas production plants connected across the country, and developing research that has allowed hydrogen to emerge as a key policy option for heat decarbonisation. 

In the future, low carbon and renewable gases will continue to provide heating and hot water for homes, businesses and industry, as well as helping to balance the use of renewables in the electricity system. They could also be used extensively in the transport sector, in particular for international shipping and also for heavy road freight, says the report. 

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