What is the future of gas? As the operator of the national gas transmission system it’s a particularly pertinent question.
Casual observers of the energy debate would be forgiven for thinking gas is on a downward trajectory. My view is that the UK gas industry, which has served us for over 200 years, will continue to be a valuable national asset well into the middle of the 21st century.
Affordability for energy customers must be at the forefront of our thinking. Gas will be crucial to continuing to provide secure energy supply at best value for consumers while we transition to a low carbon future. And that’s a view endorsed by the Policy Exchange think tank, who recently called for Government to develop a new heat strategy incorporating substantial improvements in energy efficiency, more efficient gas appliances, greener forms of gas, and alternative heat technologies. Of course, there will be a role for district heat networks and heat pumps, but these technologies may not work for everyone, and no one technology can provide a silver bullet.
Gas is seen as a fast and flexible fuel that fits in with peoples’ lifestyles. Right now eight out of ten UK households are using gas to heat their homes, and gas supplied 35% of all energy consumed in the UK in 2015. We already have the network infrastructure to supply gas. Our network comprises approximately 7,660 kilometres (4,760 miles) of high pressure pipe and 24 compressor stations. In 2015/16, the gas throughput across the system was more than 80 billion cubic metres. It makes a great deal of sense for household and business consumers to continue to make use of these assets.
Across the nation, we are committed to adapting our existing national transmission system infrastructure and commercial agreements to ensure they remain the most efficient and reliable means of transporting gas from where suppliers connect, to where it is needed.
We know we need to continue to innovate and evolve the transmission system so that the network continues to play a key role in the provision of energy as the UK progresses towards meeting 2050 climate change targets. As a company, we are at the forefront of developing green gas solutions that aim to deliver value for money through using the existing networks – for example project CLoCC (low cost connections), compressed natural gas vehicles and involvement in hydrogen trials.
We need to consider the role of our networks in transporting and utilizing new forms of gas, like biomethane and shale, as well as how our networks support any future build of new gas-fired power stations.
So, we are launching a nationwide conversation about the future of gas. We want to hear from industry, policy-makers, academics, green NGOs, consumer groups and indeed anyone with a view on the future role of gas and the gas transmission network. From Tuesday 29th November, you can take part through this new Microsite, or via LinkedIn or Twitter using the hashtag #futureofgas.
Alongside this, we’ll be conducting our own analysis to build on work from groups including KPMG and the Energy Networks Association, to support our understanding of the future of gas. This work – and the feedback we receive from stakeholders – will help form our final view and recommendations to government towards the end of 2017. We all have a role to play in the future of energy, so please get involved and join the debate.
Nicola Pitts is Head of Market Change, Gas, at National Grid