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Europe has built up one of the best gas distribution infrastructures in the world. There's one problem, though. Today it distributes natural gas, a fuel that will hardly be able to use if we're to reach net zero targets in the future. So, can we use this infrastructure instead for clean hydrogen, either blended with natural gas as a stepping stone to net zero or with pure hydrogen in the future?
Delta-EE Director Jon Slowe was joined on Talking New Energy, the podcast from Delta-EE, by Eva Hennig, chair of Eurogas’ Distribution Committee and Head of Department for EU Energy Policy, Thüga; Keith Owen, Head of Systems Development and Energy Strategy and Northern Gas Networks in the UK; and Delta-EE Analyst Robert Castek. They discuss whether the degree to which hydrogen can be used in networks – both blended with natural gas in gas distribution networks, and with pure hydrogen flowing through networks.
The New Energy Business Model team have been gazing into their crystal ball - borrowed from the Talking New Energy team - to predict what 2021 will bring for the energy transition. As ever, they don’t agree on everything. What do you think of their predictions and what do you believe 2021 has in store? Get in touch and let us know.
Andy Bradley, Director
It is a sad indictment of humankind that we always seem to feel the need for an adversarial approach to life, particularly when it includes the future of our planet.
We all recognise that there is an urgent need to develop a sustainable energy system, no longer dependent on finite fossil fuels. Given that, one might imagine that we would all be seeking the optimum solutions for each and every energy need, instead of insisting that our personally preferred technology should be used for every application.
Since our last new energy letter, the shift in focus has moved from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, to how we recover – and how “green” this recovery is. I have growing confidence that the recovery will drive acceleration in some aspects of the energy transition. There will of course be major economic challenges ahead, and the energy sector is not immune to these - but the fundamental drivers of the energy transition remain unchanged. It is encouraging to see signs of a commitment to “building back better – and greener” from Brussels and in some European capitals. The decisions being made now will determine the speed and nature of the energy transition over the years and decades ahead – and as such, influence business models, strategies and opportunities for companies in new energy.
The most detailed glimpse so far of just what this recovery will look like, was revealed in the European Commission’s Recovery Plan to “repair and prepare for the next generation” – which sets aside €750bn for a Green Recovery (plus longer-term budget reinforcements). It clearly signals that this recovery should be clean, circular, competitive and climate neutral. So what does this mean for new energy? Five points catch my interest, which create fantastic opportunities for the energy industry, if it is ready to capture them.
Delta-ee may have been early to the conversation. We started talking 10-15 years ago about decentralised energy, customers not meter points; who has needs, wants and preferences, services beyond commodity. These dynamics have now firmly moved from being on the periphery of the debate to front and centre. Most companies now recognise the direction in which the market is heading, and it seems like we are approaching the cusp of change.
Developing the right strategy and tactics is however challenging – exciting, but challenging.
There is a strong potential future for hydrogen as a means to decarbonise heat, according to the reports published by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on 22nd November. Hydrogen is painted as one of the three key solutions (alongside electrification and improved energy efficiency) which will help the UK both decarbonise heat and create more energy system flexibility. This supports Delta-ee’s view that the best route to decarbonisation of heating is likely to be a ‘balanced transition’ across a mix of technologies and fuels.
As our Gas Heating Service highlighted recently, the UK is already one the most active countries in Europe regarding the development of hydrogen for heating: see projects including H21, Hy4Heat, HyNet, HyDeploy and H100. This latest report by the CCC only strengthens the argument that hydrogen could play a key role in heat, as well as in other sectors like transport and industrial processes.
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