Carbon Connect wants to open debate on decarbonising heat and the future of gas. Chief executive Jonathan Shaw calls for contributions
As chief executive of Policy Connect I am very proud to launch the Future Gas Series. This research project is the biggest project undertaken by Carbon Connect, our independent, cross-party parliamentary forum that seeks to inform and guide a low carbon transformation underpinned by sustainable energy.
The research will investigate the opportunities offered by low-carbon gas to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. It will also explore the policy developments that will enable it to be deployed. It follows on from Carbon Connect’s Future Electricity Series and Future Heat Series and is supported by the Energy and Utilities Alliance and the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers.
The Future Gas Series will draw on the body of recent work that has demonstrated the considerable potential for low-carbon gas – hydrogen and biomethane, among others – to contribute to the UK’s attempts to decarbonise heat at an affordable cost (as well as make a contribution to this objective in other sectors such as transport). In particular, the work will examine the opportunities offered by low carbon gas and the practical steps that are required to realise them.
Considerable attention has been devoted to the potential for the mass deployment of electrified heat sources to solve the question of how to decarbonise the UK’s heat sector. However, recent research has called into question the feasibility and affordability of such a move for reasons including the amount of renewable power sources that would be needed to meet peak heat demand and the storage infrastructure required to manage the fast changes in demand associated with heating. Discussion has also focused on district heating as a way to decarbonise heat, but this solution requires an alternative form of supply to natural gas to be low carbon and is only practical in certain locations.
This research project will be broken up into three separate but linked inquiries, each culminating in a report. They will be on:
- The gas distribution network and local storage
- The production and bulk storage of low-carbon gas
- Consumers and the development of compatible appliances
The series will focus predominantly on the potential for gas to provide decarbonised heat. But it will also refer to the potential for gas to form part of a wider systems solution, helping to decarbonise the transport and power sectors. It will focus on heat for buildings but it will not exclude other forms of heat such as industrial process.
The series will begin by examining the gas grid as an existing piece of infrastructure, which can either continue to be utilised or be left to become a stranded asset. It will investigate the suitability of re-purposing the gas grid to distribute low carbon gas and the current impediments to doing this, as well as exploring the opportunities offered by low carbon gas. It will focus on two types of low carbon or ‘green’ gas: hydrogen and biogas (biomethane, bioSNG and biopropane).
The first phase will be chaired jointly by Alan Whitehead MP, shadow mnister for energy and climate change; Callum McCaig MP, SNP spokesperson on energy and climate change; and James Heappey MP. We believe it is important to tie our work strongly to parliament and the policymaking process. We are eager to link this research into the work of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Two representatives from the secretariat of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) are on our steering group. We hope that by gaining cross-party support on the future of low-carbon gas, policy can proceed with confidence, consensus, and at the pace and scale needed to decarbonise our economy.
In the coming years, the government will have to make significant policy decisions on the future of heating and what role the gas grid will play in it. The Future Gas Inquiry will inform this policy process at every stage, providing answers to the toughest questions we will have to face, and giving policymakers an informed understanding of the issues at hand.
Get involved and submit evidence to the inquiry here.