Britain’s gas grid can be ready to deliver hydrogen across the country from 2023, according to energy network companies.
On 13 January, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) published Britain’s Hydrogen Blending Delivery Plan, outlining how all five of the country’s gas grid companies will meet the government’s target of the gas network being able to deliver 20% of hydrogen to homes and businesses next year, saving 6mn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year in the process. They are also calling on government to double its domestic 2030 hydrogen production target to 10GW, ensuring as much hydrogen as possible is produced from sources in the UK, shielding homes and businesses from international gas market changes.
It laid out two timelines to work towards a 20% blend, noting that considering it is an intermediate step towards a 100% decarbonised gas future, it is crucial it delivers maximum benefit for minimum outlay.
The first timeline is driven by the government’s 2023 target which, it said, is achievable despite uncertainties over the volume of physical hydrogen production that will actually be available to connect to networks in 2023. The main reason for this is the concept of undertaking informal pre-work before a final policy decision is made on whether or not to move forwards with network blending, which is expected from BEIS in 2023.
This pre-work should be undertaken in a collaborative way to build industry consensus and expedite formal process timescales. It did acknowledge that with this work being undertaken prior to a formal policy decision being made, there is a risk it could reduce the willingness of industry parties to engage.
Under the second timeline, steadier progress is made and while pre-work is still undertaken, uncertainties relating to certain change activities and how they could extend timelines are considered. This still sees market frameworks updated by the end of 2024 to enable blending, before residual system change is completed in 2025, as well as highlighting the importance of industry engagement and collaboration throughout 2022 and 2023.
From this work, it concluded that alongside 2023 being “ambitious, yet achievable” and the need for industry collaboration and engagement before a final policy decision is made, early policy clarity can accelerate change. Because minimal infrastructure changes are required to enable blending, the earlier policy clarity can be provided, the more it de-risks industry parties which, in turn, drives up engagement and collaboration, meaning the quicker formal change processes can commence.
It also pointed out how the delivery of the timeline requires centralised coordination of change plans, with this removing the risk of piecemeal change, ensuring change is delivered in a coherent, structured way, and further recommended the need to implement quick-win system solutions first. For example, engaging with service providers at the earliest opportunity and implementing the quick wins in the first instance will reduce the potential risk of IT system change delaying the rollout of hydrogen network blending.