Currently, more than 30 per cent of all UK carbon emissions come from domestic heating and cooking and a new report claims that a UK-wide conversion to hydrogen gas will reduce heat emissions by a minimum of 73 per cent as well as supporting decarbonisation of transport and localised electrical generation.
The proposals are contained in the H21 Leeds City Gate report, which calls for the gas grid to be converted to hydrogen, starting with Leeds and then for conversion to take place across the country incrementally.
The study calls for conversion to hydrogen in Leeds take place as early as 2026-29, followed by a rollout across the UK.
It states that Leeds, as the third largest city in the UK, is the most suitable area to start conversion to a hydrogen grid, due to its significant energy demand and central geographical location.
The call has received significant backing from local authorities and businesses including Leeds City Council, the Leeds City Region LEP and Tees Valley Unlimited LEP.
The report has been authored jointly by the North of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Kiwa Gastec, Amec Foster Wheeler and Wales & West Utilities.
Dan Sadler, H21 Project Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said: “A nationwide conversion to a hydrogen gas grid is technically possible, economically viable and will be a significant contributor to meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.
“This is a major opportunity for our country to become a world leader in hydrogen technology and decarbonisation and would create thousands of new jobs across the UK.”
The report says that a hydrogen gas grid could use the existing underground gas pipes already installed in the UK, and that household appliances can be converted to run on hydrogen with far less disruption and expense than converting to alternative energy sources.
Mr Sadler said: “Households won’t be required to buy new appliances. The conversion process will be similar to that carried out in the 1960s and 70s when 40 million appliances across 14 million households were converted from town gas to natural gas.
“If the 19th century was dominated by town gas, and the 20th century dominated by natural gas, could this century be dominated by hydrogen?”
Department for Energy and Climate Change Chief Scientific Adviser John Loughhead OBE, said: “Meeting the challenge of the Climate Change Act is a huge technical and business challenge. The H21 Leeds City Gate project has usefully explored one possible contribution to meeting this challenge. DECC, and wider UK government, are looking forward to seeing the full findings of the project in the final report.”
H21 says the project would be funded through regulatory business plans. This would allow the costs to be paid back over time and, alongside energy efficiency measures, would have a minimal impact on household energy bills.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and sustainability said: “The project has massive potential to make a significant dent in the city’s environmental performance, as well as opening up a wealth of opportunities for innovation, manufacturing and low carbon transport.
“Working closely with Northern Gas Networks and our partners, we’re keen to develop this exciting concept further.”