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Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the gas distributer for the North of England, has added its support for the findings of the Northern Energy Taskforce strategy, which launches in Leeds today (Thursday 12th October 2017).

The 12-month study by the Northern Energy Taskforce, which includes senior players from the public, private, voluntary and academic spheres, sets out clean growth strategy for the North of England.

The report launched on the same day as the government’s Clean Growth Strategy and underpins many of the Westminster blueprint’s recommendations, including the references to hydrogen as a key pathway for meeting the 2050 challenge.

Mark Horsley, CEO at Northern Gas Networks said: “We welcome the government’s Clean Growth strategy and the inclusion of hydrogen’s potential as a key pathway for the 2050 energy mix which acknowledges the importantance of collaboration, network innovation and creativity in meeting the challenges we face.

“However the gas network remains a crucial piece of the decarbonisation jigsaw, and we believe more still needs to be done to give it a greater role in policy than it has today.

“Big challenges need big ideas, and the Northern Energy Taskforce strategy sets out a bold vision for how the North can become the leading low-carbon energy region in the UK by 2050, moving from cleaner to clean, to green.

“It spotlights how the North can make best use of its geological and geographical assets, its people and vast economic potential to generate green growth and jobs, and accelerate the pathway towards UK decarbonisation.

“We welcome the recommendations to speed progress for hydrogen-for-heat demonstrator projects and for the government to reinvigorate its interest in carbon capture and storage.

“We also encourage the strategy’s recommendation to consider all energy vectors in the design of future systems, in order to examine how through a whole systems approach the North can help deliver security of supply and cost efficiency while integrating more renewables.”

In 2016, NGN’s pioneering H21 Leeds City Gate study proved it was technically possible and economically feasible to convert the UK gas network to 100% hydrogen, at a realistic cost and with minimal customer disruption.

The H21 team is now working on a range of spin-off projects to fill evidence gaps around safety and domestic use, and prove the role hydrogen has to play in the UK energy mix.

NGN also launched its whole systems facility InTEGReL in Gateshead this September, in partnership with Northern Powergrid, Newcastle University and the EPSRC Centre for Energy Systems Integration.

InTEGReL focuses on bringing together the different energy types – gas, electricity and transport (oil) – allowing researchers and industry to carry out trials of coupled gas, electricity and heat systems at scale for the first time.

InTEGReL will explore new technologies aimed at delivering security of supply and a low carbon energy system while passing on cost benefits to customers, addressing the challenges of the energy trilemma.

Today’s Northern Energy Taskforce’s landmark study explores in detail the economic potential of the energy sector and the challenges it faces – which include:

  • Meeting the UK’s commitment to decarbonise by 2050 while ensuring the Northern economy grows, given its assets and historic dependence on energy
  • Making the most of the North of England’s natural assets to meets own power needs and exploiting this technology globally
  • Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and its impact on energy research; the impact of leaving the single market on energy prices, and the consequences of withdrawing from Euratom on the UK’s nuclear industry

Based on extensive research with key players in the sector across the North of England, as well as consultation within the sector, the strategy sets out a detailed vision to make the most of its energy assets.

It warns however that Whitehall policy has not been effective in helping the North adapt, being too far removed from growth opportunities, and recommends:

  • Central government strips the big six suppliers of energy efficiency responsibilities and hands councils and energy networks powers and funding for ‘local energy deals’ to make homes greener; roll-out solar panels, and help businesses become more environmentally sustainable.
  • The North of England is handed responsibility for its share of the UK’s carbon budget in a bid to help it manage its historical industrial base and incentivise green growth opportunities. Over time it would gain more powers over regulation and funding in return for progress.
  • Creating a new Northern Energy Accelerator to fund research and innovative green projects.

The report details how each of these might sit as part of a strategy to create 100,000 jobs and add £15billion a year to the northern economy.

Other recommendations include:

  • More flexible approaches to energy pricing and supply for key energy intensive foundation industries in the North;
  • A new Northern Low Carbon Homes commitment;
  • More rapid progress on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen-for-heat demonstrator programmes;
  • Creation of a new Energy for the North body, like Transport for the North, to oversee the development and implementation of the strategy and take legal responsibility for the Northern Carbon Budget.

The strategy also identifies detailed action plans for a wide range of other renewable energy technologies such as offshore wind, tidal and bio-energy schemes.

The Northern Energy Strategy will be launched in Leeds on 12 October, with speakers set to include:

  • Sir John Harman – Chair, Northern Energy Taskforce
  • Ed Cox – Director, IPPR North
  • Cllr Judith Blake – Leader, Leeds City Council
  • Sir David King – Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change
  • Denise Massey – Managing Director, Energy Innovation Centre
  • Jim Cardwell – Head of Trading and Innovation, Northern Powergrid

Sir John Harman, chair of the Northern Energy Taskforce and former Environment Agency chair, said: “If government is going to make further progress on the Paris agreement it requires a step-change in its approach.

“For instance, devolving carbon budgets would mean the North is responsible for its own destiny and turn a national policy-headache into northern prosperity, creating up to 100,000 of tomorrow’s green jobs.

“If it’s serious about spreading growth across the country, while meeting decarbonisation goals, the government must take this issue seriously and give the North of England real powers to kickstart a local energy revolution.”

Anyone that smells gas or suspects Carbon Monoxide should call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999. This line is in operation 24-hours a day, seven days a week.