Clean growth, “Greening the Gas Grid” in Hammond Spring Statement

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond delivered the Spring Statement this week, laying out updated economic forecasts for the UK.

Along with formal acknowledgement that the UK economy will continue to weaken in 2019, there is the more positive strength of public finances to applaud, the budget deficit expected to be the smallest since 2002. However, both of these are dependent on Brexit outcomes.

The Statement includes several nods to clean growth, including new home-build standards as well as biodiversity and conservation.

In terms of bioenergy, the Statement reads, “Accelerating the decarbonisation of our gas supplies by increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid. To meet our climate targets, we need to reduce our dependence on burning natural gas to heat our homes. The government will consult on the appropriate mechanism to deliver this commitment later this year.”

Responding, Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association, says, “The UK anaerobic digestion (AD) industry stands ready to produce this green gas from the millions of tonnes of organic wastes currently going to incineration or landfill or being left to rot.”

Morton also points to green gas being a government success story, highlighting the Ofgem Renewable Heat Incentive, “Funding for this is currently due to run out within the next two years. It’s therefore vital that the promised consultation includes a robust support mechanism for the production of green gas into and beyond the 2020s. The announcement is another huge endorsement of the importance of the UK AD industry from the very top of government.”

Speaking to Bioenergy Insight, Richard Walsh, head of public affairs from Cadent, “We welcome that the Spring Statement clearly signposts a green future for the gas grid. We’re increasingly seeing connections of biomethane to our network, helping to heat homes and fuel heavy goods vehicles, and we have exciting plans to introduce hydrogen at scale from 2024.” The Cadent project, Hynet, and others like it, will need government backing to accelerate and further their progress, Walsh continues, “The hydrogen will be blended with natural gas at volumes up to 20%, to the gas network in North West England; Hydrogen produces zero carbon at point of use, and if the project were rolled out across the UK, it would result in carbon savings equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road.”

Commenting publically on the Statement, James Courts, the policy and external affairs director at the Renewable Energy Association, concurs that the government commitment to increasing green gas going into the national grid is positive, as is calling out the need to decarbonise the gas grid to meet targets. However, Courts indicates that something more concrete would be even better, “Although no definite proposals were outlined, the acknowledgement of the need to green the gas network is a promising start as this offers a low-cost way of utilising existing infrastructure to decarbonise.”

With the right legislative support and ministerial commitments, the gas networks will be better placed to deliver clean energy, reduce carbon emissions and potentially meet UK carbon reduction targets.

A summary of the Statement can be found here, and the full speech is here.

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