Local outcry threatens plans to heat homes with hydrogen

The Government’s plans to heat homes with hydrogen face uncertainty as residents plan to protest against a trial of the technology.

People living in Redcar, in North Yorkshire, will protest over the weekend against proposals that would see Northern Gas Networks (NGN) switch around 2,000 homes from natural gas to hydrogen heating.

The switch is intended to act as a trial for widescale hydrogen heating in what the Government hopes could be a green alternative to gas boilers, and ministers are expected to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the scheme shortly.

But plans for a similar trial in Whitby, near Ellesmere Port, were scrapped earlier this year in the face of local opposition and some Redcar residents are hoping the Government will abandon plans for their area as well.

Dawn Campbell, one of the residents opposed to the scheme, said: “People have questions about this trial and want full, clear and independent answers.

“We are sick of hearing NGN’s half answers that lead to more questions. We want democracy to be clearly seen and are tired of being done to.”

Calvin Lawson, regional campaigns organiser for Friends of the Earth, said: “Regularly speaking with and visiting Redcar residents, I can see there is a clear and organised opposition to this trial that cannot be ignored.”

Cabinet Meeting
Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho is expected to make a decision on the Redcar trial before the end of the year (James Manning/PA)

Residents are understood to be primarily concerned with the safety of any trial, and 520 people have signed a petition calling for a vote on whether it should go ahead.

They have also pointed to comments by Nick Winser of the National Infrastructure Commission, who said: “We do not see any role for hydrogen in the future of home heating.”

Ministers have previously said that strong support from the local community would be “a critical factor” in approving a trial.

But with the abandonment of the Whitby proposal, Redcar is the only other location being considered for a village-level hydrogen trial. The Government considers such a trial as essential for informing future decisions on hydrogen’s role in decarbonising home heating.

A survey carried out on behalf of NGN suggested 76% of residents were in favour of the hydrogen trial, with another 19% indifferent or undecided.

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “No decision on the trial has yet been made and we have always said community support would be at the centre of any decision.

“Before any trials go ahead, the Health and Safety Executive will need to be satisfied it will run safely and we have committed to ensuring consumers are protected before, during and after any trial.

“A decision on whether to proceed will be made later this year.”

An NGN spokesperson said: “We entirely understand that there may be concerns about the move to hydrogen and electricity. Our door is always open, and we continue to actively encourage anyone with questions or reservations to come and speak to us at our ‘Hydrogen Hub’ on the High Street.

“Ensuring people feel comfortable with the changes suggested is a priority, and we have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to engage with and reassure residents and businesses, through drop-in sessions, door-knocking and a public meeting.

“We are planning a meeting in December and are working with the government about the arrangements and will be in touch with residents once these are finalised.”