Hydrogen is no longer something a long way in the future, making the need to capitalise on research and development all the more pressing, according to Tim Harwood of Northern Gas Networks (NGN).
On 23 February, Harwood was among the speakers at the Hydrogen Summit, held by PRASEG – the All Party Parliamentary Group for Renewable and Sustainable Energy – and the Energy Networks Association (ENA), which saw industry experts discuss hydrogen deployment and its potential benefits to the UK. Drawing on the work being undertaken by NGN, Harwood stressed the importance of starting with tangible things people are able to look at, feel and touch when it comes to deployment of hydrogen.
When quizzed on how to defeat scepticism, Harwood explained that is why NGN has been involved with building hydrogen houses in Low Thornley and doing trials in closed communities. By taking hydrogen into the public domain, it shows that it is something that has come to life, is tangible and no longer just a vision. He added that he believes that within 12 months, NGN will be able to do significant things in people’s homes.
Angela Needle of Cadent, meanwhile, drew on the community benefits of hydrogen, citing Cadent’s role in the HyNet consortium as an example. The project will see hydrogen go to nearby businesses, such as steel manufacturers, cement, bricks, ceramics and power generation, where the average salary for those industries is higher than the average for the region. It is not just about meeting net zero, Needle said, but creating jobs and wealth locally – something hydrogen would allow for. Ensuring the network is able to receive hydrogen requires investment to ensure the mains replacement programme continues its work, bringing more skilled engineers into the region and retaining, as well as reskilling, existing gas engineers.
Looking at net zero more generally, Needle said there is no one solution that fits all, with each place different, but taking people on that journey is key, meaning local views and regional plans are pivotal.
Dr Fiona Fylan of Leeds Becket University, meanwhile, outlined some of the key findings from the extensive research she has done with her team on hydrogen, both on a national and regional level. Nationally, they found overwhelming support for conversion of heating to hydrogen once customers are aware of the impact gas has on climate change. A similar picture was found at a regional level in Yorkshire and the Humber, which explored hydrogen for domestic fuel and transport.
As well as the benefits when it comes to emissions and air pollution, the research also revealed that residents feel a hydrogen economy in Yorkshire and the Humber would make it a better place to live. It would attract jobs, notably higher paid jobs, to the area which would boost the economy, benefit the supply chain and also attract sustainable businesses, as well as sustainable people to the region.
Here’s the summit in its entirety: