Navigant’s “Pathways to Net Zero“, commissioned by Energy Networks Association and independently reviewed by Imperial College, sets out a detailed plan to deliver a zero carbon gas grid, with clear technical, operational and regulatory actions that need to take place to achieve it.

Decarbonising the gas network will be critical for the UK to meet its Net Zero targets, with heating being one of the most challenging issues to face. That is the conclusion of a new report, the first to outline a viable pathway for decarbonised gas in 2050 since the UK committed to ‘Net Zero’ emissions.

By following a pathway as set out in the report where we use more low carbon and renewable gases along with further electrification, the approach could save around £13bn ($17bn) a year compared to a pathway that relies on electricity alone.

Technology is advancing rapidly and one of the steps that government could quickly and easily take would be to mandate new boiler installations to be “hydrogen-ready” when the appliances come to market in the coming years.

Mandating “hydrogen-ready” boilers is part of a suite of actions that should be taken to advance the implementation of a Net Zero 2050 including:

  • Introducing a comprehensive energy efficiency programme – helping to keep peoples’ homes warm and alleviating fuel poverty
  • Increasing the volume of green gases, like biomethane and hydrogen, in the energy system
  • Providing support for large-scale trials including carbon capture, usage and storage, hydrogen production and smart hybrid heating systems
  • Changing gas safety, metering and billing regulations to allow hydrogen into the system

Transforming the gas network will ensure that the move to net zero is as done as smoothly and efficiently as possible while minimising the impact on our lives, from the way we heat our homes to the way we travel around the country.

In future low carbon and renewable gases will:

• Continue to provide heating and hot water for homes and businesses
• Be used to provide heat for industry
• Help manage peaks in power and balance the use of renewables
• Be used extensively in the transport sector, for shipping and heavy road freight

The UK has made significant progress in decarbonising the energy system and the scale and pace of the challenge is set to increase as the UK tackles the climate emergency. This progress is in part thanks to the strengths of a privatised gas network which has incentivised innovation and investment.

Britain’s unique system of energy network regulation has already helped make the country a world leader of renewable electricity. Now it is doing the same for clean gas.

The gas network companies are already playing their part, building on their experience which has already seen nearly 100 green gas production plants connected across the country and developing innovative research which has seen hydrogen emerge as a key policy option for heat decarbonisation.

Government, Ofgem and all key stakeholders must come together to make sure that not only are the public at the heart of their thinking but that the policy and regulatory framework supports the further delivery of the private investment needed to deliver a Net Zero gas system for the country.

David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association said: “We are facing a climate emergency and now is the time for action. Cutting emissions from heating has historically been complicated which is why I am delighted Navigant’s report shows the pathways we need to take to deliver low carbon heating for 23 million homes and businesses and getting us to Net Zero.

“The country should be proud of the innovation and engineering expertise that has led to Britain being a world-leader of renewable energy, including green gasses. It is now for government, the regulator and industry to build on that success and create the right policy and regulatory environment to attract the investment required to deliver the world’s first net zero emissions gas network for the public”.

Richard Bass, director, energy, sustainability and infrastructure at Navigant said: “To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, urgent action is required across all fronts and the gas networks must have a prominent role. Our analysis demonstrates that there are technically viable and cost effective pathways for low carbon and renewable gas to contribute to the decarbonisation of the GB energy system in combination with electrification, carbon capture and storage, and improvements in energy efficiency.”