We respect the opinions of every individual in the Whitby community about the Hydrogen Village programme. This is particularly important during this current period of engagement, where everyone has the opportunity to share their views.
However, we are concerned to have seen some false information about the programme being shared with residents via unofficial channels. We have taken the time to review and respond to each of these claims below, in order to set the record straight and give local residents peace of mind.
Leaflet: ‘Do you know enough about the Hydrogen Village?’, Source Unknown, Oct 2022
The claim: The Hydrogen will be made by splitting off Carbon Dioxide from fossil fuel gas.
The truth: At first, most of the hydrogen produced in the UK will be made using natural gas, with the CO2 from production removed and stored away, as referred to here – this is more commonly known as ‘blue’ hydrogen and it will predominantly be supplied to industry. Over the longer term, hydrogen will increasingly be made using renewable energy, with almost no CO2 emissions – also known as ‘green’ hydrogen.
Cadent is committed to a low carbon Hydrogen Village programme and will use ‘green’ hydrogen produced locally. To ensure a resilient supply of hydrogen and keep our customers safe, warm and connected, we are currently looking at a number of sources of hydrogen for the village.
None of the supply options currently under consideration for the village are ‘blue’ hydrogen.
The claim: They aim to bury the Carbon Dioxide under Liverpool Bay using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
The truth: We understand that the Carbon Capture and Storage scheme being referred to is part of the proposed HyNet scheme, which is focused on producing hydrogen to decarbonise the surrounding industry. HyNet and the Hydrogen Village are two separate hydrogen projects.
The claim: Top scientists have shown that the type of Hydrogen is worse for the climate than burning Natural Gas
The truth: This is inaccurate. It comes from a report which has been refuted by a number of respected organisations, including Herriot Watt University, the Imperial College London Sustainable Gas Institute, and University College London.
The study referred to suggests burning blue hydrogen emits 20% more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas. The Climate Change Committee have commented that the input parameters used in the report represent a worse-case scenario and no credible project would perform so badly.
Cadent is committed to a low carbon Hydrogen Village programme and will use ‘green’ hydrogen produced locally.None of the supply options currently under consideration for the village are ‘blue’ hydrogen.
The claim: Any type of Hydrogen is more expensive than renewable electricity made from solar, wind, tidal or wave power.
The truth: We are entirely committed to ensuring that residents of the Hydrogen Village won’t pay a penny more for hydrogen than they would for natural gas during the programme.
We’ll also ensure you’re protected on cost at the end of the programme – whether the area remains on hydrogen after two years or reverts to natural gas. That includes making any changes required to your property completely free of charge or reviewing whether the natural gas price match stays in place for customers using hydrogen.
The claim: The industry is using Hydrogen as a smokescreen to keep fossil fuels online for longer…and is making the climate emergency worse.
The truth: It is widely recognised, including by the UK Government and the Climate Change Committee, that low carbon hydrogen is vital to decarbonising energy supplies. In the Government’s Hydrogen Strategy, it said that hydrogen could provide up to 35% of the future energy mix.
The UK Government has already established that electric heat pumps will be a key solution for heating. They are also exploring heat networks and hydrogen because there are some difficulties with electrifying everything. This includes the cost of the technology, the suitability in some homes and the ability of the electricity network to cope and the costs of achieving this. Exploring the potential for hydrogen to help fill the gap is why Government wants this programme to happen.
Hydrogen offers a low carbon alternative to natural gas because it can be made in the UK and doesn’t produce harmful CO2. It also works in a very similar way to natural gas, meaning only limited changes are needed to gas pipes and homes, for hydrogen to be used for heating, hot water and cooking.
The claim: Hydrogen can produce six times more harmful Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) pollution than gas when burnt in air.
The truth: Hydrogen boilers actually produce less nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions than natural gas boilers today.
The Heating and Hot Water Industry Council has also reported that: “The latest domestic boiler designs have much lower NOx levels when burning natural gas than the current maximum requirement of 56mg/kWh. Manufacturers who have developed 100% Hydrogen-Ready boilers report a value of around 10mg/kWh to 25mg/kWh (dependent on boiler type) when converted to the hydrogen mode.”
The claim: Grants for fossil fuels reduce investment in clean renewable energy.
The truth: This is inaccurate. Low carbon hydrogen is not a fossil fuel.
When it’s burned as a fuel, in cookers and boilers, hydrogen doesn’t produce any carbon dioxide emissions – unlike natural gas, which is currently used by about 85% of UK homes.
As today, there is a mix of energy sources to heat our homes such as gas, oil, or electricity from nuclear, wind and hydro. In the future, we will need to ensure there are zero carbon emissions from our heat sources.
The claim: To date there has not been a single Carbon Capture and Storage scheme that has been successful at the scale claimed by this project.
The truth: We understand that the Carbon Capture and Storage scheme being referred to is part of the proposed HyNet scheme. HyNet is a different project to the Hydrogen Village and the two are not interdependent.
The statement is misleading. Carbon Capture and Storage technology exists all over the world.
The claim: It (The Hydrogen Village) is part of a regional scheme (HyNet) receiving vast Government grants even though the fossil fuel companies are making eye watering profits.
The truth: HyNet is a different project to the Hydrogen Village and the two are not interdependent.
As part of its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the Government has committed to undertaking a large village hydrogen heating trial, in order to demonstrate how hydrogen can be used in homes to make heating and cooking more environmentally friendly – this is what the proposed Hydrogen Village programme in Whitby is all about.
The claim: Install efficient Heat Pumps – safer, healthier, cheaper, creates clean jobs.
The truth: We will need heat pumps in future, but they will not be for everyone. We will also need hydrogen for those unable to afford the high upfront costs of a heat pump, or the ability to make some of the changes needed to your home to make heat pumps work efficiently.
Regarding jobs, the hydrogen industry is projected to support 12,000 jobs by 2030.
Leaflet: ‘Hydrogen Village’, Whitby Residents Group, Nov 2022
The claim: Moving from natural gas to hydrogen is NOT like the switch from town gas to natural gas. That switch was to move to a cheaper and safer fuel. This trial would be the opposite, moving us to a more dangerous and expensive fuel – just so that the gas companies can stay in business!
The truth: We are working with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure hydrogen can be used in homes at least as safely as natural gas is today. The HSE must independently verify that our safety systems are robust beforethe programme begins.
The claim: 100% hydrogen has never been used in a domestic setting.
The truth: 100% hydrogen is being used in homes as part of a similar programme in the Netherlands. The H100 project in Fife, Scotland will also see up to 300 homes supplied with 100% hydrogen from 2024.
The claim: A recent government study has predicted gas explosions will increase by almost four times!
The truth: It is our understanding that this refers to a news article about the Hy4Heat Quantitative Risk Assessment.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has independently reviewed the Hy4Heat Safety Assessment and has written a letter of assistance to BEIS. This assessment indicates that the use of 100% hydrogen can be made as safe as natural gas is when used for heating and cooking in certain types of houses (detached, semi-detached and terraced houses of standard construction), that were studied.
An independent analysis of media coverage of the assessment has also been provided by Full Fact, which concluded that headlines “exaggerated the danger of hydrogen boilers”. You can read the full analysis provided by Full Fact here: https://fullfact.org/environment/hydrogen-boiler-explosion/
The claim: If after the trial the Government give the go-ahead to use hydrogen for heating the cost would push many of us into fuel poverty.
The truth: We’ll ensure you’re protected on cost at the end of the programme – whether the area remains on hydrogen after two years or reverts to natural gas. That includes making any changes required to your property completely free of charge or reviewing whether the natural gas price match stays in place for customers using hydrogen.
The claim: Cadent have avoided a public consultation or discussion, with external speakers, where they can be challenged by residents or those in the industry.
The truth: We held a Community Information Day on 13th December, which anyone could attend to ask questions about the programme. We also invited a number of industry and academic experts along to the event, so that residents could speak to experts outside of the programme team.
Another Community Information Day is being held on Tuesday 10th January, which residents can drop-in to anytime between 10.30am-2pm or 3pm-8pm. Again, external experts will be on hand to answer questions, and the event is open to all.
We are also planning a series of webinar Q&A sessions for early 2023.
The claim: Hydrogen is the smallest and lightest molecule in the Universe. 5000 times smaller than the thickness of the human hair. It (hydrogen) is currently used for industrial purposes, under strict controlled environments and managed by skilled technicians as it is volatile and prone to leaking. Cadent want to put this in your home! Is the health & safety of our families something to be experimented with?
The truth: The main difference between natural gas and hydrogen is in the mass of the molecules rather than their size. Hydrogen is not any more likely to leak than natural gas – rather, if a system is not gas tight, it will become apparent more easily with hydrogen than with natural gas.
The purpose of the programme is not to test safety, it is to help the Government understand what a national switch to hydrogen could look like. We will be working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the independent regulator in the UK, to ensure our safety systems are robust before the programme begins.
The claim: Hydrogen will push heating bills up by at least 70%-90%.
The truth: We believe that this claim related to a paper titled “Hydrogen Costs”, published by Cornwall Insight and MCS in September 2022. The press release accompanying it stated “Fuel bills could rise 90% under the Government’s hydrogen plans.”
The MCS / Cornwall report is being misrepresented by some who have their own agenda
about how we decarbonise home heating and the report does not say fuel bills could rise by 90% under Government’s hydrogen plans.
Getting to net zero means natural gas will not be an option for anyone in future. The real
comparison is therefore between hydrogen and electricity in 2030. Using the numbers in the report we can work out how much they think heat pumps will cost to run, and it’s very similar to hydrogen – even before you factor in the higher upfront installation costs heat pumps have.
The paper however compares projected hydrogen and natural gas prices in 2030 and finds hydrogen could be an average of 76% more expensive, and perhaps 90% more expensive if only green hydrogen is used. Natural gas is considerably more expensive than that today, however.
Even using numbers in the report, heating your home with hydrogen in 2030 will be cheaper than using natural gas today.
The claim: There is a wealth of independent studies and information which detail all of the reasons why hydrogen is not the answer for our home heating. To date, we have been unable to find independent information that says it will be safe and cost effective for our homes!
The truth: You can find a range of academic papers, policy documents, and industry studies on the role of hydrogen for heating in the Information Hub on this website.
The claim: No independent expert body has been provided, to protect or help the residents understand the true impact to their homes, families, finances and safety.
The truth: At Cadent, we work with a number of independent organisations to provide advice to consumers, in particular those in vulnerable situations.
As programmes like this come forward and the consumer market for hydrogen develops, we will need to continue to work with Government and others across the industry to provide independent technical advice. This is something we are looking to embed in the Hydrogen Village programme as it evolves.