National Grid has published a new report claiming that gas will “play a crucial role for many decades to come” in the UK’s energy mix and can help to decarbonise heating, transport and industry, but clear policy direction is needed if the sector is to remain compatible with the government’s clean growth goals.
However, National Grid also acknowledged concerns amongst green groups that the UK risks locking itself into fossil fuel infrastructure that could break long term emission reduction targets, unless investment in emerging low carbon gas-related technologies is ramped up.
The intervention follows National Grid’s first gas deficit warning in eight years when a week of cold weather and snow hit the UK earlier this month. The shale gas industry claimed the warning demonstrated the need for greater domestic gas supplies, but green advocates put the situation down to an overreliance on gas instead of lower carbon alternatives alongside insufficient action to improve energy efficiency. At present, 80% of UK homes use gas for heating, while natural gas also provided 42% of UK’s electricity in 2016.
Elsewhere, the report said fast tracking carbon capture and storage (CCS) was “vital” in supporting the UK’s low carbon gas ambitions, and it urged the government to earmark specific projects as early as next year for the £100m carbon capture funding promised in last year’s Clean Growth Strategy.
National Grid says CCS could be used to capture and store emissions from existing natural gas or biofuel power stations and industrial sites, while also producing low carbon hydrogen gas for use in heating and transport.
Leeds City Council has already taken steps to convert the gas grid to run on hydrogen, rather than gas and similar plans are afoot to create a “hydrogen cluster” in Manchester and Liverpool.