The role of Green Gas

Good Energy CEO Juliet Davenport on gas as a transitional fuel

Good Energy believes that natural gas will continue to play an important role in the UK’s energy mix in the short and medium terms.

As a country, we are heavily reliant on natural gas for both heating and electricity generation but, in order to tackle climate change, we need to move away from the burning of natural gas. So at Good Energy we view gas as a transitional fuel on the journey to a 100% renewable future.

Good Energy supplies “Green Gas” to our customers. By this we mean that our gas contains at least 6% bio-methane (which is chemically similar to natural gas, but which can be produced from biogenic waste or renewable sources with much less impact on the environment). And we make sure that all the gas we supply is carbon neutral through carefully verified carbon reduction projects in Vietnam, Nepal and Malawi. These projects also bring a number of economic, social and health benefits to the local communities involved.

Towards a low carbon heating system

Decarbonising the way that our homes and businesses are heated is one of the toughest and most complex challenges that the government faces as it seeks to achieve substantial reductions in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Heating represents the biggest, most diverse use of energy in the UK. It is the largest energy cost for most households and has very high seasonal variability. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, the role of low-carbon gas, in the form of bio-methane or hydrogen will probably be critical. In next year’s Emissions Reduction Plan, the government needs to set out a bold vision for decarbonising heat and urgently consider the case for re-purposing the UK’s existing gas network to carry low-carbon gas.

Large gas generators are not the answer

We believe renewables should be the UK’s major source of electricity generation. They have huge advantages over other technologies and are well suited to the UK’s geography. But renewables work best when twinned with flexible technologies, like battery storage and demand-side response systems, that can pick up the strain at key times, such as cold, still evenings. Although they are lower carbon than dirty coal-fired power plants, large gas turbines are relatively inflexible and so are not well-suited to a future, decentralised energy system with a high proportion of renewables. To prevent carbon “lock-in”, we must ensure that upgrades to and investment in our energy infrastructure is compatible with the UK’s stretching commitments to reduce emissions.

Efficient Action

Whether you view the main driver as reducing environmental damage, or simply the need to reduce dependence on a finite resource, the shift away from burning natural gas is ultimately inevitable. But the other side of the coin from finding new sources of energy is reducing the amount of energy that we use. Too often energy efficiency is the “poor relation” of energy policy. But the cleanest and most secure energy (and, over the long term, usually the cheapest too) is the energy that you never use because of energy efficiency measures you have put in place.  

The easiest and best value point at which to install energy efficiency measures into a building is at the point of construction, so government should tighten up again the standards for the building of new homes. And with more effective, evidence-based and well-targeted schemes to encourage households and businesses to retrofit efficiency measures, demand for gas will decline, reducing one of the biggest obstacles we face in transitioning to a low carbon economy.

Juliet Davenport OBE is the founder and CEO of Good Energy, one of the UK’s first entirely renewable electricity supplier and generator companies.