The four gas distribution networks (Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, SGN and Wales and West Utilities), that cover England, Scotland and Wales are joining together to support the establishment of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen.
The cross-party group of MPs and Peers will focus on “raising awareness of, and building support for large scale hydrogen projects” – such as conversion to a hydrogen domestic gas grid – that will enable the UK to meet decarbonisation targets set through the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement.
Also joining with the gas networks is the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), a not-for-profit trade association that provides a leading industry voice helping shape the future policy direction within the sector.
It is claimed that a conversion to hydrogen would drastically reduce UK carbon emissions, sustain and create thousands of high-quality jobs, and trigger innovations in other industries such as transport and electricity generation that will lead to further carbon reductions.
The creation of this APPG comes off the back of growing industry and government interest in the potential of hydrogen conversion. In 2016, the H21 Leeds City Gate project first demonstrated the technical and economic feasibility of conversion projects, and recently Ofgem gave funding of £9m to Northern Gas Networks on behalf of the UK gas distribution networks to support the further development of their plans for converting the gas grid from natural gas to hydrogen.
The UK government is carrying out a £25 million programme delivering essential safety evidence around hydrogen’s use for heat in buildings, while hydrogen was named as one of three plausible pathways to 2050 decarbonisation in the government’s 2017 Clean Growth Strategy.
Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, has welcomed the establishment of the APPG on Hydrogen. She said: “Hydrogen shows huge potential as a vector in a clean, safe, flexible, future energy system; which is why we’re investing over £60m in hydrogen projects as part of our modern industrial strategy. The creation of this group shows the increasing excitement around hydrogen and the role it can play in meeting the Clean Growth Grand Challenge.”
There is also growing political and industry backing for a project led by gas network Cadent to use hydrogen to power industry and heat homes in North West England. Operating by mid 2020s, HyNet North West will create 5,000 jobs, power heavy industry and help heat two million homes. It involves the creation of the UK’s first CCUS capability and will reduce carbon emissions by more than one million tonnes every year, which is the equivalent of taking 600,000 cars off the road.
The joining together of the four gas distribution networks and the EUA suggests that they all see hydrogen as being a key part of the country’s future energy system. The creation of the APPG has also received the backing of UNISON and the GMB, who both support the development of large scale hydrogen projects due to their ability to create and sustain thousands of jobs.
The APPG will be chaired by Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar and a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee. She said a conversion to hydrogen would be great for her constituency, as well the country as whole.
“The Tees Valley area strongly supports the development of large scale hydrogen projects, as we already produce 50% of all hydrogen produced in the UK.
“I’m excited about the potential of hydrogen to enable the country to significantly decrease our carbon emissions, create lots of good long-term job opportunities and position the UK as a global leader in green technology.
“This group will work to raise awareness of the latest research and innovations in hydrogen technology, and work constructively with central government, local authorities and industry to support its development”.
Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, responding to news of the inaugural meeting of the APPG for Hydrogen, said: “We strongly welcome this new APPG. We expect hydrogen technology to play a key role in clean heavy transport and cutting emissions in the heating sector. “I look forward to speaking at the APPG on this important topic.”