Developing the hydrogen economy

future of energy

Ahead of next week's Energy Networks Innovation Conference (ENIC) 2020, hear from our expert ENIC panellist Dr Angela Needle, Director of Strategy, on the importance of hydrogen and our next steps to developing the hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen needs to be part of the UK's future energy mix

The Net Zero energy system of 2050 will look very different from today’s energy system. We will no longer burn coal, oil and gas to generate electricity and power industrial processes, cars will no longer run on petrol and diesel and our homes will no longer be heated by natural gas. In 2050, most of our electricity will be generated from renewable sources, many industrial processes will switch to electricity, most of our cars will run on batteries and many of our homes will be heated by electric heat pumps.

But electrification won’t be the whole answer. Renewables alone are unlikely to meet all our power needs, some industrial processes can’t be electrified; batteries won’t be appropriate for all vehicles; and heat pumps won’t be appropriate for all homes. Green gas – in particular hydrogen – is likely to have an important role to play in all these areas. Hydrogen also has the potential to provide valuable energy system flexibility, helping to manage inter-seasonal supply and demand imbalances and build system resilience.

The potential for hydrogen

Most commentators now agree that hydrogen will have an important role to play in the future energy system. In its 2019 report which prompted the Government to make its Net Zero commitment, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said that “by 2050, a new low-carbon industry is needed with UK hydrogen production capacity of comparable size to the UK's current fleet of gas-fired power stations.”

Projects are currently underway which will deliver the hydrogen economy. HyDeploy is a blend project which is mixing 20% hydrogen in to the gas supply at Keele University. Meanwhile HyNet is a national game-changer, which will realise the potential of the hydrogen economy through the creation of state- of-the-art infrastructure. It will offer a viable alternative to the use of natural gas, providing a safe transition to a decarbonised world. Both of these projects are the first steps on the road to a UK-wide hydrogen economy.

Next steps to develop the hydrogen economy

We believe the following measures will be required to stimulate the hydrogen economy:

  • Incentivising hydrogen supply, potentially through a Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism, similar to offshore wind
  • Underpinning investment in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS) technology
  • Mandating the rollout and installation of hydrogen-ready boilers
  • Enabling hydrogen blending into the network for a no-regrets, carbon reduction method
  • Establishment of low-carbon obligations
  • Creating a hydrogen-ready distribution network
  • Updating the Gas Safety Management Regulations (GSMR) 

Developing a hydrogen economy and delivering Net Zero will only be possible with policy and regulatory certainty. Businesses and investors need to be confident that their investments will deliver a reasonable return for risk. And consumers need it to be confident in upgrading their heating systems with potentially costly and disruptive Net Zero solutions.

Cadent at ENIC 2020

Register for ENIC 2020

Angela will be speaking at a special Gas Goes Green session - How do networks deliver the hydrogen transition? - at ENIC on Wednesday 9 December, from 13:00 - 14:00. You can also come and visit us at our virtual booth, or attend one of the other interactive sessions we're involved in.

Live panels:
  • What are the next steps in facilitating the energy system transition? Cadent panellist: Stuart Easterbrook, Future Gas Strategy Manager. Tuesday 8 December, 16:20 - 17:00
  • The decarbonisation of heat: cross-vector solutions​. Cadent panellist: Jonathan Collins, External Affairs Manager North West. Wednesday 9 December, 16:00 - 16:30
  • Taking customers in vulnerable situations on our net zero journey. Cadent panellist: Jo Giles, Customer Safeguarding Manager. Wednesday 9 December, 16:15 - 17:00
  • Positive results from the UK’s first grid-injected hydrogen pilot: HyDeploy - Sikander Mahmood, Project Manager - Future Networks. Tuesday 8 December, 14:15 - 14:30
  • A cleaner, greener gas network: OptiNet - James Whitmore, Innovation Manager - Future Networks. Tuesday 8 December, 15:50 - 16:00
  • Foam Bag Operation on Stubs (FBOS) - Vishal Dhanji, Innovation Project Manager West Midlands. Wednesday 9 December. Part of the 'Fast followers quickfire round', 13:00 - 14:30


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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