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Ofgem green-lights funding for net zero projects

Our FutureGrid project to test how we might safely introduce hydrogen into our gas network and a project to upgrade powerlines to deliver more power and less emissions have received £17.17m funding from Ofgem.

National Grid has received funding for two ground-breaking new projects that will lower harmful greenhouse gases and help reach the national target of net zero by 2050.

FutureGrid, a first-of-its-kind trial project to research hydrogen as a future green gas for use in homes and businesses, will receive £9.07 million, with the remaining funding coming from our project partners. The RICA (Retro-Insulated Cross-Arms) project, uprating existing overhead lines for a greener future energy system, will receive £8.12 million. Both projects will start in 2021.

Ofgem, the government energy regulator, invited bids for funding the development and demonstration of new green energy technologies that will help run a cleaner and more efficient energy network infrastructure through its Network Innovation Competition.

Game changing green projects

“Today’s announcement from Ofgem is a clear signal that they recognise the crucial role that new technologies play in the UK’s net zero journey. It comes at a time when innovation has never been more critical. We are relentlessly working on ways to significantly cut carbon emissions and this is an exciting opportunity to deliver projects that will accelerate the pathway to a low carbon future,” explains our UK Executive Director, Nicola Shaw.

“The winning projects were those that showed the most potential to make the game-changing leaps in technology we need to build a greener, fairer energy system at the lowest cost to consumers,” said Jonathan Brearley, Chief Executive of Ofgem.

The future is hydrogen

As a nation, we’re heavily reliant on methane gas in our homes and businesses – 85% of households use gas for their current heating, for example. The problem is that heating, cooking and industrial processes account for 37% of UK’s CO2 emissions. So, if we’re to lower those emissions and reach the national target of net zero by 2050, we need a lower-carbon, cleaner alternative to natural gas. Hydrogen has that exciting potential.

FutureGrid, a new hydrogen research facility, will be built from a range of decommissioned assets, to create an offline but realistic gas transmission network. Hydrogen has different physical properties from natural gas and this project will test whether the current transmission network is compatible with hydrogen. Blends of hydrogen from 2% up to 100% will be tested at transmission pressures, to assess how the equipment and steel pipelines perform, alongside extensive safety testing.

As Antony Green, our Project Director for Hydrogen, says: “If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen. Sectors such as heat are difficult to decarbonise and the importance of the gas networks to the UK’s current energy supply means trial projects are crucial if we’re to deliver low-carbon energy reliably and safely to all consumers.”

If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen.

– Antony Green, Project Director for Hydrogen

FutureGrid brings together the expertise of six partners – DNV GL, HSE, Northern Gas Networks, Fluxys (who owns and operates the transmission system in Belgium), Durham University and the University of Edinburgh. The hydrogen research facility in Spadeadam, Cumbria will include a microgrid distribution network alongside a terrace of three houses, to represent a complete hydrogen gas infrastructure for the future.

Powering towards net zero

Ofgem is also providing £8.12m funding to National Grid Electricity Transmission to create an Ultra High Voltage network, through upgrading existing powerlines.

The RICA project is an entirely new method of uprating existing overhead lines. This will allow 45% more power on existing routes and avoid the emission of 39,000 tonnes of CO2. Finding innovative ways to develop network infrastructure at minimum credible cost will deliver £286m of efficiencies to homes and businesses, and support our low-carbon future.

“We’re super excited about bringing new engineering solutions to deliver the transition to clean energy and meet our environmental challenges. This project demonstrates that the key to success lies in innovation and that we’re well placed to deliver on net zero,” said David Wright, our Director of Electricity Transmission.