Backlash prompts companies to give residents option of keeping natural gas rather than joining pilot project
Energy firms will no longer force people in a village in Cheshire to stop heating and cooking with natural gas and swap to lower-carbon hydrogen after a local backlash to a planned government-backed pilot.
British Gas and Cadent had been prepared to cut off gas supplies to nearly 2,000 homes in the village of Whitby, just outside Ellesmere Port on the south bank of the Mersey, as part of proposals to create the UK’s first hydrogen-fuelled village.
However, the companies have since rowed back, telling people they will have the option of adopting hydrogen or keeping gas for their home energy needs, after vocal opposition over a 10-month consultation process.
While replacing natural gas with hydrogen in homes could help Britain hit its climate targets, residents have been concerned about the resulting costs, since hydrogen can be more expensive and repairs for specialised appliances could be costly if the technology is not widely adopted.
“It’s because we’ve heard and listened to what people in Whitby have to say that we’re making some changes to the way that we’re going to operate this project – should the government choose us to deliver it for them,” Cadent’s head of hydrogen consumer, Marc Clarke, said in a recorded video statement.
“Our new proposal means that you will have a choice to participate or not, and there will be two options to choose from. You can either choose to get involved with the hydrogen village programme, and help pave the way to a greener future. Or you can choose to stay on natural gas if you do not wish to participate.”
The changes mean Cadent will have to lay parallel gas mains in Whitby to supply local homes if the trial goes ahead, since existing mains will be used to bring hydrogen to the properties that take part.
Those that opt in to the pilot will also receive a £2,500 cash payment and new hydrogen appliances that will be installed and maintained for free throughout the programme. Cadent also said that at the end of the pilot it would reconnect homes to their natural gas supply and install new natural gas-run appliances at no cost.
Clarke said the company would make more information available over the next few weeks.
The government is set to confirm the site of the pilot later this year, with Redcar in Teesside also in the running.