The following is a letter, instigated by Global Witness, that has today been sent to members of the UK House of Lords as they prepare to debate important amendments to the Energy Bill. The groups are concerned that provisions in the bill will force residents at proposed "Hydrogen Village" sites to switch to hydrogen heating - a dangerous, polluting and expensive form of heating.
Read more on why it is climate-wrecking oil and gas companies that are backing hydrogen heating, and why it needs to be stopped, in our recent briefing here.
Dear House of Lords,
We are writing to draw your attention to some worrying provisions in the Energy Bill, scheduled for discussion in the House of Lords on 17th April.
As Global Witness summarised in a recent briefing, oil and gas companies have been heavily pushing hydrogen as the future of the UK’s home heating, at a time when the government is exploring options to decarbonise our energy system. This is despite repeated warnings from the scientific community that hydrogen for home heating is dangerous, expensive, polluting and would deal a heavy blow to the UK’s energy security.
In spite of these risks, the current draft of the Energy Bill could enable the creation of “hydrogen village trials” which would force up to 2,000 homes in the trial area to convert their home heating. The trial will either be located in Redcar, Teeside, or Whitby, Ellesmere Port, depending on a government decision.
As part of measures to enable hydrogen trials, the Bill also increases the powers of access granted to gas companies. Currently gas distribution operators are allowed to enter people’s homes if there is a gas leak. The Bill proposes to extend these powers of entry to allow companies to access people’s homes for any reason connected to the trial, which could theoretically involve forcibly installing hydrogen boilers without residents’ consent. As reported by the Evening Standard this is a real concern, particularly in light of the recent scandal involving companies gaining forced entry to people’s homes to install pre-payment meters.
Hydrogen heating has the gas industry’s backing because it would ensure that gas infrastructure and production is maintained, and would continue to bring in profits. If locals in trial areas were instead to choose electric heating, this raises concerns as to whether a gas company should be trusted to adequately install a competing technology that is not in its own interest.
Following pressure in recent weeks from parliamentarians and the undersigned advocacy groups, Cadent, the company that is bidding for the hydrogen trial in Whitby, is now suggesting that residents will be able to opt out. This means residents will be able to choose their heating supply, rather than switching to hydrogen. Northern Gas Networks, meanwhile, which is vying for the Redcar project, has made no such commitment.
As Parliamentarians, it is crucial to weigh up the potential impacts of the Energy Bill on members of the public. In this context, we urge you to support amendment 56 tabled by Lord Lennie, Baroness Sheehan, and Baroness Blake of Leeds on Clause 112.
Member's explanatory statement
“This amendment requires the Secretary of State to take a number of steps with regard to the areas and people affected by hydrogen grid conversion trials and to make arrangements for Ofgem to provide information, alternative heat sources and offer the right of opt-out (which would disapply the right of gas transporters to enter premises to disconnect). It would also require the Environment Agency to monitor and report on hydrogen escape and the Health and Safety Executive to monitor safety implications. Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.” (Energy Bill [HL] 24 March https://bills.parliament.uk/publications/50540/documents/3215)
Architects Climate Action Network
Centre for Sustainable Energy
End Fuel Poverty Coalition
Fair Energy Campaign
Friends of the Earth
Fuel Poverty Action
Global Action Plan
High Peak Green New Deal