The UK is committed to a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 100% by 2050.
The majority of CO2 emissions come from using energy to heat our homes, keep industry turning, driving or simply boiling the kettle. There has been good progress on using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms for electricity. But heat is responsible for around half of overall UK CO2 emissions. Eight out of ten UK homes use gas to heat their homes because it is a convenient and reliable energy source – it’s always there when needed, responding instantly to peaks in demand and keeping us warm whatever the weather.
Some ‘low carbon’ gases are already in use; such as biomethane, a renewable gas made from animal or food waste. But this type of gas cannot meet demand. Most of the gas used today is fossil fuel based natural gas. Fossil fuels release CO2 when they burn and their supply is limited so governments around the world are taking steps to phase them out.
The nationwide network of gas pipes will play a vital role in meeting Britain’s future energy needs. The network is a national asset consisting of 176,469 miles of pipework, connected to 23 million homes; fuelling all industrial sites and supplying domestic gas turbines which, in 2018, generated over half of the UK’s electricity supply.
Hydrogen: a low carbon gas in a net zero future
Hydrogen offers potential as a zero or low carbon energy source. This is because when hydrogen is burned it doesn’t produce CO2, just water and heat. It could be used as a plentiful supply of low carbon energy for heat and transport.
A net zero energy system will depend on harnessing all low and zero carbon energy sources. Alongside zero carbon power generation through wind, nuclear and solar power, hydrogen will play a vital role as it produces zero carbon when burned.
Hydrogen offers all the benefits of natural gas – it responds instantly when demand peaks, it is easily stored and delivers high temperature heat for industrial needs – but it does not produce carbon dioxide. Some other ways in which hydrogen can help us remove the carbon from essential parts of our life are: supporting renewable electricity on the days when there isn’t enough wind or sun; powering fuel cells for heavy transport like HGVs and trains, not suited to batteries.
You can find out more about hydrogen production here.
Click below to see a short animation about why hydrogen is being explored for UK energy.