Net-zero – is the UK’s gas grid ready to go green?
16th April 2020 | Commercial Energy
In a week where plans were unveiled for a nationwide roll-out of farming greenhouses heated by wastewater, the UK’s major gas operators have teamed up to launch a programme aimed at delivering the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid. Heat accounts for more than a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and remains one of the biggest challenges for the nation to overcome as part of its transition to net-zero emissions by 2050.
While electric heat pumps and biomass boilers are common technologies across the UK’s housing stock and commercial buildings, most of the heat used by buildings and industries derives from fossil fuels. Natural gas – albeit blended somewhat with biomethane – is the “predominant source of heating for the vast majority of customers connected to the grid”, according to the Government’s own reports of the decarbonisation of heat. Around 75% of the UK’s current heating demand in buildings is met by natural gas.
The transition poses certain technological issues. The UK’s net-zero emissions target for 2050 will require every household to replace their heating system with lower carbon alternatives. It is estimated that this will take more than 1,000 years at the current rate, according to a Living Labs study. Yet it could be argued that we’ve approached a breakthrough week for the transitions to low-carbon heating and gas.
Firstly, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) has convened the UK’s leading gas operators such as Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, and National Grid to work on a Gas Goes Green project aiming to deliver the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid. The Gas Goes Green programme suggests that with 85% of UK homes connected to the gas grid, prioritising decarbonisation in the heat sector would act as a cost-effective measure to help meet the broader net-zero target for 2050.
The programme will aim to use existing infrastructure while boosting new technologies. Hydrogen and biomethane have been highlighted by the collaboration as areas to accelerate progress.
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