Gas Grids Plot Course for U.K.’s First Hydrogen Town by 2030

Britain’s natural gas network operators set out a strategy for delivering the U.K.’s first hydrogen-heated town by 2030.

The Hydrogen Network Plan published Thursday follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to harnessing the clean fuel’s potential in his November 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution.” Enthusiasm for hydrogen is booming, with many countries seeing it key to decarbonizing some of the most polluting sectors.

The excitement around producing hydrogen from clean sources has gathered pace as governments unveil generous subsidy plans to support the technology that is expensive and unproven at scale. The European Union has said it plans to direct as much as 470 billion euros ($570 billion) toward infrastructure for the fuel in the coming decades.

“Building the U.K.’s first hydrogen town is not just about replacing the natural gas that most of our homes rely upon today; it’s about reducing our carbon emissions in a safe and secure way,” said Chris Train, ex-chief executive officer of Cadent Gas Ltd. and head of the Gas Goes Green program at the Energy Networks Association.

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The grid companies’ plan outlines the areas that need to be tested such as how household appliances like heaters and cookers will stand up to using the clean fuel. It will also model how much of the new network needs to be built and the amount of hydrogen that will be needed.

The U.K. government’s policy focus has also been on employment as well as reducing emissions. Giving hydrogen a key role in a low-carbon economy could create 75,000 jobs by 2035 and 195,000 by 2050. By 2032, the five network companies are planning to invest 28 billion pounds ($38 billion) in hydrogen projects around the country.

The plan also sets out the work needed to meet the U.K.’s other hydrogen objectives, including being ready by 2023 to blend up to 20% hydrogen into local gas grids and meeting a 1-gigawatt hydrogen production capacity target by 2025 and 5 gigawatts by 2030.

A village in northeast England is due to start a pilot project that uses 20% hydrogen blended into its gas supply for heating and cooking.

The Future Homes Standard, published on Tuesday, said that all new U.K. homes should be built without fossil-fuel heating from 2025.

U.K.’s Hydrogen Town Milestones
  • 2021: Publish hydrogen strategy
  • 2023: Heating trials in a local neighborhood
  • 2025: Begin large village hydrogen heating trial
    • Set out plans for a pilot hydrogen town before the end of the decade

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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