I’ve written before about hydrogen in the gas grid, including a pilot project at Keele University. This week a project in Scotland was announced that brings green gas a step closer. If it gets permission, it plans to build the first hydrogen gas network for ordinary homes, serving 300 houses in Levenmouth, just north of Edinburgh.
There are a couple of interesting things about this. One is that the group bringing it forward is SGN, a gas network operator. They are one of four companies that own and maintain Britain’s gas network. They are potentially one of the big losers if heating goes electric. The value of their biggest asset – the huge network of gas pipes and connections to homes – will be eroded by the net zero target and the slow decarbonisation of heating. Once people start pulling out their gas boilers, their business model will collapse, so it’s completely in their interests to support a transition (unlike the fossil fuel companies, who desperately want use to keep using their product.)
Not that it’s a straight swap. In this project a new network of pipes will be laid, so that home owners will actually have two gas connections and they can make a choice. If they choose to switch to the hydrogen, they can keep their existing boiler with a couple of adjustments. This could be a useful approach at the early stages of hydrogen deployment, so that nobody feels that they are having an unfamiliar technology forced on them. They will also be able to explore the differences and reasons for switching at a hydrogen gas demonstration centre before they make a decision.
The hydrogen itself will be generated through electrolysis from offshore wind power, using Scotland’s abundant renewable electricity and turning it into sustainable heat.
We’ll have to wait and see if the project gets the green light, but if it doesn’t happen here first, it’s only a matter of time before we see homes heated with hydrogen.