Dr Tony Ballance, Chief Strategy & Regulation Officer, shares his response to Bright Blue’s latest report – Going Greener: Public attitudes to net zero.
"Today I was pleased to be able to join Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP and a collection of experts in the field of energy to officially launch Bright Blue’s latest report – “Going Greener: Public attitudes to net zero
For Cadent, we are clear that whatever solutions there are to the decarbonisation challenge, they must work for everyone. This latest report forms part of our important work in finding out what our customers want from us, what role they want us to play in helping the UK to reach net-zero, and how they want us to go about achieving this goal. To ensure a smooth transition to net zero, it’s essential to have a real-time finger on the pulse of customers’ attitudes towards decarbonisation, and their understanding of their options and choices to reduce their own carbon footprint. We often say that we want our customers to be at the heart of everything we do, and the net-zero challenge is no different – customers must be at the heart of decarbonisation.
This report shows the importance that UK consumers place on decarbonisation, and that we all have role to play, from individuals using energy, through energy networks like ourselves, right up to Government and policy-makers.
Cadent are committed to rising to the challenge. As a company, we are working hard to cut our own emissions, whether this be through purchasing low and zero-emission vehicles for our fleet, such as our new hydrogen cars, or through designing new low-carbon spaces for our employees to work.
But we are also working to reduce emissions from our network. We are already connecting new bio-gas plants to our network, as well as supporting the development of a national bio-CNG refuelling network, helping to reduce emissions immediately.
But, as we get closer to 2050, we need to do even more if we are to reach the goal of net-zero. This will require choices to be made about how people heat their homes, how industry uses energy, and how we power the vehicles we drive.
The “Going Greener: Public attitudes to net zero” report shows us that whilst customers support decarbonisation, there are other factors that are crucial to them. Customers want their heating system to be able to warm their homes quickly, they do not want to have to make major changes to their homes, and they want to own and control their heating system. Cost is also critical to consumers.
Converting the existing gas network to run on hydrogen would therefore look to be a sensible policy-decision. When hydrogen burns, it produces only water vapour – there are no carbon emissions. Importantly though, hydrogen heating systems run in much the same way that natural gas heating systems do. They do not require radical change to consumer behaviour or for customers to rip out existing equipment.
In the near-term, hydrogen blending would appear to offer a sensible pathway to achieving full conversion at a later date. It will enable the creation of hydrogen markets, normalise hydrogen in the home for consumers, and at levels of up to 20%, meaning no changes are required from consumers, both in terms of behaviour, but also in equipment.
Our HyDeploy project at the University of Keele is already up and running, demonstrating how instant emissions savings can be safely and easily made. Importantly, HyDeploy is also adding to the evidence base of how consumers want to reach net-zero. Feedback to date has been very positive, and I look forward to sharing the results of the trial in the first-half of next year.
In the longer term, we’re looking at how we can repurpose our network to carry up to 100% hydrogen. This offers the most sensible route to achieving net-zero in a way that works for our customers. I am therefore delighted that many of the findings of the “Going Greener: Public attitudes to net zero” report back-up what our customers have already told us and the principles behind our decision to work towards a hydrogen future.
However, the report also tells us that consumers do not feel they have the necessary information to make informed decisions about how to decarbonise, and that they do not feel they know enough about any of the routes to decarbonisation. Cadent are clear that we need to put the customers at the heart of everything we do, and decarbonisation is no exception. We will therefore continue to speak to our customers and stakeholders, making them aware of our plans, and ensuring that we are responding to what they want from us. I am looking forward to hearing more from our customers over the coming months, and in making sure that our network works for them."