Why today's Energy White Paper could represent a turning point

future of energy

By Steve Fraser
Chief Executive Officer, Cadent

Today’s Energy White Paper has been long awaited and marks a major step forward in the energy debate, bringing much needed clarity and a sense of real purpose to an area of our lives which will define how we live over the coming generations. We are especially pleased to see the emphasis placed on consumers.

As a country we have made incredible strides over the past decades to bring climate change to the front of the policy agenda and to couple that with real progress in decarbonising electricity production. You only need to look at the phenomenal growth in wind and solar generation since 2010, and the corresponding collapse in coal, to see that. But progress towards decarbonising the energy system as a whole has been patchy. As electricity has raced ahead, industry and heating, and to a lesser extent transport, have lagged behind.

Today’s White Paper could represent a turning point. It could, and I hope it will, ensure that decarbonising energy is never again a synonym for decarbonising electricity, instead broadening the debate around how we reach Net Zero to include those harder to reach areas, like how we heat our homes. It is vital that we do so in a way that ensures consumers are front of mind and that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected and supported as this transition takes place.

It is my real hope that the publication of this Energy White Paper will provide much needed momentum to the debate around how we decarbonise the heating of our homes. The decisions we make on this issue over the next five years may well have a profound impact over the next hundred.

There is an increasing emphasis on heat pumps as a key solution to heating and I’m clear that that they will play a major role in providing low carbon heating to homes in many parts of the UK. It is important, however, that we don’t see heat pumps as a panacea.

We know from working day in and day out in communities across our network many of the country’s housing stock would need to change dramatically at a cost to customers and the reality is that for many people their gas boilers and the gas networks that support them provide a reliable and cost-effective means of heating their homes.  Whilst heat pumps are a fantastic, energy efficient, piece of technology and represent a great solution for many new build, well-insulated and modern homes they won’t be suitable for everyone.

This is an issue we need to consider and I hope the White Paper helps to stimulate the debate on a balanced energy solution which doesn’t pit ‘molecule vs electron’ but looks at the issue through the lens of the consumer. In this light the roll out of heat pumps and the installation of hydrogen-ready boilers fuelled by a repurposed gas distribution network, would be the best choice to meet the heating needs of our communities.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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