2,000 Homes In Cheshire Could Become UK’s First Hydrogen Village
A new development announced by Ofgem, and BEIS could see up to 2,000 homes in the village of Whitby, Ellesmere Port in Cheshire be converted to hydrogen gas by 2025. Hydrogen Industry Leaders looks at the Hydrogen Village programme and what it means for hydrogen being used nationally.

Natural gas currently accounts for about 23 per cent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions and now the UK is on an important journey to make heating more environmentally friendly.

Bringing low-carbon hydrogen to heat homes and business is the next step the UK must take.

In 2025, the first UK village will swap from natural gas to hydrogen. Two Hydrogen Village locations are being considered. One is in an area within Whitby, Ellesmere Port and the other is in the Northeast.

Hydrogen Village will provide insight for national hydrogen future

Ellesmere Port’s proposal has been put forward by gas distribution network Cadent and British Gas and is supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

It was identified as an ideal location for the programme due to its closeness to HyNet, a facility at the nearby Stanlow Manufacturing Complex, where hydrogen is set to be produced from the mid-2020s.

The programme will help the UK Government decide how hydrogen could be used nationally and follows on from the use of hydrogen gas in 300 houses in Fife, Scotland.

Head of Hydrogen Consumer at Cadent, Marc Clarke, said: “This is a really exciting project that puts Whitby in Ellesmere Port right at the heart of a low carbon future for the country as a whole.

Previous projects have clearly shown hydrogen’s potential, and now, with this scheme, we are showing how hydrogen can be used at scale to cut emissions from heating and cooking.

“We already know that Whitby has an unparalleled geographic location for hydrogen. The North West is already on track to produce the low carbon hydrogen required for the scheme from Ellesmere Port’s HyNet project, and we have been undertaking work over the past few years to ensure the region’s pipes are ready to take hydrogen.”

Residents will get free upgrades to their homes

Benefits of the programme include the removal of carbon emissions from heating, repurposed infrastructure, it is a simple change, it is homegrown energy, and job creation.

In addition to these benefits, according to the Hydrogen Taskforce’s 2020 Economic Impact Assessment, building the UK’s hydrogen economy has the potential for 75,000 jobs.

If Ellesmere Port is picked as the Hydrogen Village, every property in the selected area within Whitby will get free boiler upgrades, to new hydrogen-ready versions.

As 85 per cent of the UK’s homes already use gas boilers, the transition to versions that run on hydrogen will be a simple move.

For the duration of the two-year programme, there is a guarantee that residents will pay the same to use hydrogen as they would pay for using natural gas.

Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Councillor Louise Gittins, said: “We’re already in a unique position to have the HyNet development on our doorstep, providing an opportunity to use hydrogen as a source of energy, not only to power industry in our area but also our homes.  It will also provide significant job opportunities in a new, expanding sector, for people both locally and further afield.

“With the hope that the full 2025 village programme will be awarded to our region, the Council and Cadent will be working closely to create a strong community programme, with residents in Whitby, Ellesmere Port and throughout the borough.

Residents will be engaged and empowered to co-produce this project throughout the process.

Now that energy regulator Ofgem and the UK Government have announced that Ellesmere Port and one other project in the Northeast can proceed to the next stage, Cadent and British Gas have written to all residents whose properties would be supplied with hydrogen and explained the programme in more detail.

Later this year, Cadent and British Gas will start to carry out local surveys to understand how the programme could be delivered within this area of Whitby. In 2023, after the surveys are completed, Ofgem will confirm whether the Hydrogen Village programme will take place there.