Government pushes ahead with plans for the UK's first hydrogen towns

Government pushes ahead with plans for the UK’s first hydrogen towns despite backlash from locals over safety fears

  • Gas operators put forward number of towns as ‘most suitable for conversion’
  • Aberdeen, Scunthorpe, and areas near Humberside and Merseyside mooted 

The Government is pushing ahead with plans for the UK’s first hydrogen towns despite backlash from locals over safety fears. 

Gas network operators are thought to have already put forward towns they deemed to be ‘most suitable for conversion’ such as Aberdeen, Scunthorpe, and areas near Humberside and Merseyside. 

A small trial of hydrogen heating will begin in Fife, Scotland, next year with about 300 homes being supplied with the gas. 

Whitby, in Ellesmere Port, was put forward for the pilot scheme to test out the use of hydrogen in homes but those plans were thrown out in July when it was met with fierce opposition from locals who feared being ‘lab rats’.

While last month protesters took to the streets in Redcar against Government proposals to heat 2,000 properties in the seaside town in Yorkshire with hydrogen. 

Protesters take to the streets in Redcar, Yorkshire, as the Government eyes up the town as a potential place to test out hydrogen in domestic homes

The Government has put forward proposals for 2,000 properties to be heated with the gas as part of a pilot scheme (Pictured: Protesters in Redcar)

The Government is pressing ahead with trials despite The National Infrastructure Commission last month concluding after an exhaustive investigation that hydrogen should be ‘ruled out as an option to enable an exclusive focus on switching to electrified heat’, reported The Guardian.

READ MORE: Plans to heat millions of homes with hydrogen in jeopardy as experts fear its potential to blow up homes is being swept under the rug 

Three other towns – two in Wales and one in the West Country – have also been mooted as potential areas for hydrogen, according to The Telegraph.   

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: ‘By 2030, we aim to deliver 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity, including at least half from green hydrogen sources, supporting more than 12,000 jobs and up to £11bn of private investment across the UK.

‘We are building the necessary evidence base to determine whether hydrogen blending offers strategic and economic value and meets the required safety standards. We will confirm more details by the end of the year.’

In a move to reassure people it is thought the Government could rename areas ‘decarbonisation zones’ and offer to switch from gas to heat pumps, while gas companies could also be allowed to blend hydrogen with the existing gas network.  

Only weeks ago Northern Gas Networks (NGN) was criticised over safety measures relating to plans to supply 2,000 homes in Redcar with hydrogen for heating and cooking – instead of natural gas.

It involves installing hydrogen detectors in homes but experts said that potential participants have not been provided with enough information.

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has been criticised over safety measures relating to plans to supply 2,000 homes with hydrogen for heating and cooking – instead of natural gas (stock image)

Ministers have said they will only go ahead with the Redcar scheme if it has support from the community

As hydrogen is easier to ignite and is more prone to leaking than natural gas, homes will have to undergo some changes in order for it to be installed.

The experiment is seen as the last chance to prove whether hydrogen heating can work in the UK.

READ MORE: Will plans to heat millions of homes with hydrogen have to be scrapped? Grant Shapps warns the switch from gas boilers would be ‘very slow’

NGN was said to be locked in a row over safety, as experts and residents clashed with the gas network over the proposed modifications.

Early safety assessments recommended that homes should have holes drilled in their walls in order to prevent the gas leaking and setting alight, according to The Telegraph.

NGN said that this was unnecessary and instead proposed using high-tech sensors to find leaks.

Michael Liebreich, an independent energy analyst, said the lack of information was ‘outrageous’.

He told the outlet: ‘They were never properly told about the original safety case for the trial and are now being asked to consent without a new safety case having been published.’

Mr Liebreich added that people were not given information about what was going to happen to their houses.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) previously set out measures that it said would bring the risk of using hydrogen down.

It said installing excess flow valves and outdoor metres at homes, 4×4 inch, permanently open vents and making hydrogen smell like natural gas would help.

The gas network also told Redcar residents they would not need vents and dismissed fears about explosions as ‘misinformation’.

And a safety assessment found hydrogen installed in homes could cause 65 injuries or fatalities annually.

Plans to make Whitby the UK’s first ‘hydrogen village’ were abandoned in July following a backlash from local residents who complained that they ‘didn’t sign up to be lab rats’.

Energy Minister Lord Callanan said at the time: ‘After listening to the views of residents, it’s clear that there is no strong local support.’

In an open letter, Mark Horsley, chief executive of NGN, said: ‘There is absolutely no scenario in which we would ever install a product in anyone’s home or community that compromised their safety.’

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