The West Midlands was the cradle of the industrial revolution. For more than two hundred years, since the first gas lights sprang into life in Birmingham, our gas pipe network has been providing light, heat and fuel for this manufacturing heartland.
Now the region has become the birthplace of a new revolution – a revolution in green energy – and once again the gas network has a central role to play.
The West Midlands is at the cutting edge of low carbon hydrogen technology. The use of hydrogen, an alternative to fossil fuels, has been deemed essential by the Committee on Climate Change
if we are to reach Net Zero.
Here in the West Midlands we’re at the cutting edge of this technology. Last year saw the very first UK trial of a hydrogen train in South Warwickshire
. Meanwhile, in Worcester, Worcester-Bosch have built a prototype domestic hydrogen boiler
and Birmingham City Council are looking at hydrogen buses – among the first local authorities to do so.
And I’m proud to say that Cadent is making its contribution – leading the UK’s first project to inject hydrogen into a gas network to be used by homes and businesses at Keele University in Staffordshire.
Led by Cadent, in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University and a consortium of technical experts, the HyDeploy
project is demonstrating that it is possible to blend up to 20% hydrogen into people’s gas supplies without any changes needed to gas appliances or pipes.
If this blend was to be rolled out across Britain it would save six million tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road – as well as opening the door to higher blends of hydrogen and forming the catalyst for a hydrogen economy.
But embracing hydrogen technology isn’t just good for the environment – it could also be good for economy, aiding the ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19 and bringing jobs to the region. We’re forging bonds with local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and others, for example, Tyseley Energy Park
and West Midlands Energy Capital
, to make this low carbon vision a reality.
If we are to get green gas flowing into homes, public services and businesses across the West Midlands we need to make sure that our 15,000-mile network of pipes is up to scratch. This year we will be investing £65 million in the region, replacing 490 kms of ageing iron mains with tough new plastic pipes that will keep the gas flowing into the next century.
As a company we’re also very aware that we need to ‘walk the talk’. In the West Midlands we are trialling two electric vehicles and are about to add a hydrogen car to our fleet. In addition, we are planning to install electric vehicle charging points in our depots and we’re exploring innovative new technologies, such as Factory in a Box
, to help us cut waste.
It’s not just in the environmental arena that we can make a difference, we support our local communities and especially the most vulnerable.
From delivering food and prescriptions for people self-isolating and donating groceries for foodbanks to installing oxygen pipes for the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital for free, West Midlands staff went above and beyond the call of duty to help those most in need during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Our partnership with the charity National Energy Action
is repairing and replacing unsafe gas appliances for free for customers in vulnerable situations. Next year we will celebrate with the people of Coventry as it becomes the City of Culture
Tackling climate change, while at the same time growing our economy to benefit everyone, is a challenge for the West Midlands but with an unparalleled track record in industry and innovation, it’s one we are more than qualified to meet.
Cadent in the West Midlands
Cadent manages the gas distribution network for the West Midlands (and three other UK regions). In the West Midlands, it looks after 15,000 miles of gas pipes bringing gas to 2 million homes, hospitals, schools, offices, businesses and other sites. It also provides the region’s 24/7, 365-day gas emergency service. Dr Kate Jones is Network Director.