Energy companies and authorities plan to convert existing natural gas mains in Leeds and West Yorkshire to 100 per cent hydrogen gas by 2035, in what has been described as “the world’s largest clean energy project”.
And, speaking on behalf of Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Keith Owen told a meeting of regional politicians and environmental experts that manufacturers of gas-powered home appliances should make their products “H-ready”, meaning they can run on Hydrogen gas once the changes have been made.
Mr Owen told a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) green economy panel: “There is a lot going on in the UK and we are on the leading edge of this.
“Energy is a funny old thing. It tends to be quite complex.
“There are fundamental differences which makes it a technical challenge. But a point we’re making to the manufacturers is that it would be good if appliances were “H”-ready, like when TVs were “HD”-ready.
“There have been a number of H21 initiatives, to try and bring everybody else with us.
“If you rolled this out across the UK, it has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 258 million tonnes a year by 2050.”
It is hoped that the scheme could be rolled out across the north of England, before eventually providing 12 million homes with cleaner energy.
Engineering expert Dr Alice Owen from the University of Leeds said: “Personally, I have been advocating hydrogen technology for transport for the last 15 years. There is an important area here.
“The update is welcome but there is a risk that we are seduced by the technology and the uses. There are a lot of technological uncertainties there.
“I think it’s worth recognising that this is not a low-carbon technology in and of itself.”
Mr Owen responded: “Reducing the need for energy has to be the first step. But that is a huge challenge with our housing stock and planning regulations.
“We strongly believe there is a role for hydrogen to provide this service.
“As a species we have run out of time. We have 31 years left – this is the blink of an eye. We are in a difficult place, so we need to start now.”
A report which went before members stated: “If implemented, this would be a highly innovative programme and the first of its kind in the UK.
“This hydrogen blueprint sets out how the UK is ready to lead the way in reducing carbon dioxide emissions through the world’s largest clean energy project.”
Gas mains in the UK are currently supplied by what is known as “natural gas” – a compound of methane and other hydrocarbons, which contribute towards carbon emissions.
A further UK rollout could see 12 million more homes across the rest of the country converted to hydrogen by 2050.