The UK’s low-carbon future will need a world-class infrastructure

The UK’s low-carbon future will need a world-class infrastructure

The UK’s low-carbon future will need a world-class infrastructure 150 150 SGN Future
SGN's CEO John Morea
CEO, John Morea

The gas network in Great Britain is one of the most advanced and efficient gas infrastructures in the world, with some 23 million customers connected to 284,000km of pipeline, and around 85% of homes relying on gas for heat.

But our current energy system is in transition.  It’s changing in response to the UK’s commitment to addressing climate change by reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050 (2045 in Scotland).

If our country is to meet its commitments, then the way that we heat our homes must change – we must adopt greener solutions – using greener gases like biomethane or hydrogen or switching to electricity generated from renewables. These are big decisions, and there is no shared view of what the future looks like yet.  

We’ve talked to our customers to understand what their priorities are and to make sure we’re building their expectations into our plans. And we’re listening to our future customers – young people who care very much about the environment and the future of our world.

Our role is to work with customers, governments, other gas networks and across our whole system for energy, to develop a future decarbonised system that’s affordable, creates the least possible disruption and delivers the 2050 carbon reduction targets that we’ve promised.  We’re thinking ahead – far ahead- about what our role is and how we can play our part.

Our vision is for the gas network to be flexible, adaptable and fit for our low carbon future. In particular, customers want us to:

  • design the gas network to transport alternative sources of ‘green’ low carbon gas
  • set and achieve ambitious environmental targets e.g. reducing carbon footprint, producing less waste
  • investigate alternative means of providing heat to customers to reduce carbon emissions.

Biomethane

We’re on track to deliver enough biomethane green gas to meet the needs of 250,000 homes by 2021. There’ll soon be 100 biomethane production plants connected to the country’s gas networks and many more are planned.
Our role also involves helping to develop the right policies and standards to allow a future for green gas. Our “Opening up the gas market” project in Oban in the west of Scotland was designed to clearly show that the UK’s gas networks have the capability to safely transport a wider range of gases than currently allowed by government regulation. And most importantly, without the need for expensive processing – currently costing UK gas customers £325milion a year.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is another clean gas with a future role.  Current gas quality regulations allow only 0.1 per cent hydrogen to be blended into the gas mix.  Cadent, our neighboring gas network, is planning to demonstrate how blending in up to 20 per cent hydrogen on Keele University’s private gas network will adequately address questions around safety, compatibility and billing – as well as prove its low-carbon capabilities.  A follow-on project will trial the same 20 per cent blend on a public network. 

Our own H100 project will see the construction of the UK’s first purpose-built hydrogen network at a location in Scotland to demonstrate safe and efficient delivery of 100 per cent hydrogen.

Both these studies and others consistently show that the decarbonising of gas is the most cost-efficient pathway for dramatically reducing heat-related emissions.

Transport

UK Government figures show that around a quarter of all transport emissions are produced by HGVs and buses, even though they make up just 1.5% of all UK road traffic.  Converting those vehicles to run on gas or hydrogen could have a very important role to play in our low carbon future.  We’re already seeing HGVs and buses convert to “compressed natural gas”, and I’m sure that when hydrogen becomes more readily available we’ll see it used extensively for transport.

The gas network could form the backbone of a national system providing a clean, quiet and cheap alternative to diesel. Converting to clean gas would be the most effective and efficient means to provide cleaner air in cities, and support CO2 reduction targets nationally.

2050 vision

Come 2050 we’ll need to have transformed our energy industry. We think that blended gas in networks will be playing a significant role in the low carbon energy mix, alongside heat pumps, hydrogen networks and other energy efficient and cost-effective solutions.


Our networks supply gas to some of the most remote and the most densely populated parts of Great Britain. What works for the Highlands of Scotland is unlikely to be the same solution for our city customers in places like London, Glasgow or Brighton, so local solutions will be key. The Scottish Government has announced an ambitious future energy vision, and we’ll be working hard to help to make it a reality.


We now need two things: First, a process of long-term total energy planning. Second, open and transparent conversations with government, regulators, customers and interest groups around the long-term vision for gas networks. The outcomes of those discussions will help our industry deliver the right transformation at acceptable cost.

  • Hello. I live on Belmont Lane, Chislehurst, London. Today, one of your SGN vans was parked just outside our house.
    The driver was taking a break by smoking outside his van. I noticed that while he was doing this, he was idling his van. I approached him if he needed to keep it running and he said yes, he had the aircon on and was also charging his laptop.
    With the current drive to improve both London’s and the UK’s air quality, this seemed a ill informed position to take. I stated to him that idling vehicles are inefficient, produce toxic emissions and that many school children, preschoolers and parents were walking past as it was school pick up time (there is a school nearby). I also told him that idling any vehicle was illegal and punishable by a fine if caught. He stated he was unaware of this and thought that SGN would have told him this if it was true. He also stated he was a union rep and had not been informed of the legal nature of running a stationary vehicle. He initially refused to turn it off, then became more conciliatory and cut the engine.
    On your website, about building a shared future, you state that you want” to set targets to reduce our carbon footprint”. I think making sure that all van drivers are aware of the polluting effects of running stationary vehicles would help in this regard. I would also save a huge amount in vehicle fuel costs.
    As a Governor of our local school, we have worked hard to educate parents on environmentally responsible behaviour regarding idling cars outside the school. I’m hoping SGN takes a similar approach to it drivers.
    Looking forward to a positive outcome.

    Regards,

    Sean South

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to bring this to our attention, Sean.
      We’re absolutely committed to reducing our carbon footprint, and as part of this, making sure we contribute towards reducing air pollution wherever possible. We’re currently updating our Driver’s Handbook which contains policies and guidance on how our vehicles should be driven as safely and efficiently as possible. We do measure idling time on all our commercial vehicles and over the last 12 months we’ve reduced idling time by 7.5%. We’re looking at ways to keep improving on that, since over 60% of the commercial fleet requires the engine to be running when operating tools that are necessary to carry out our works. We plan to include engine idling guidance in the updated handbook, but in the meantime, we’ll brief all drivers to remind them of the law on idling.

  • this News needs to be broadcast to a wider audience on Television , your silence on TV is deafening and I would say worrying to existing and future customers

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