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UTILITY Week 4th September 2015

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6 | 4TH - 10TH SEPTEMBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK People & Opinion Gas still has a crucial part to play Gas will continue to be needed as the UK looks to advance its low-carbon agenda. Chief executive's view David Smith, Energy Networks Association W hen considering what the energy industry will look like in 2050, or making an assessment of the future energy mix, it is impor- tant not to take a narrow view of the challenges ahead or con- sider any part of the solution in isolation. As an organisation repre- senting both gas and electricity network companies, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) is well placed to consider the whole energy system without bias to any energy source. Any holistic approach of this kind will reveal a number of certainties, one of which is that gas and the gas networks will play a crucial role in delivering a secure and afford- able low-carbon transition. Considering the relationship between our gas and electricity networks is a useful way of dem- onstrating the need for a compre- hensive view of the whole energy picture. For example, the decar- bonisation of heat and transport through heat pumps and electric vehicles is considered an impor- tant part of reducing the UK's carbon emissions over the next thirty years. This will, however, significantly increase the load on our electricity network, particu- larly during the higher seasonal peaks from electric heat in win- ter, which the network does not currently have to accommodate. Our gas network will be criti- cal to supporting and mitigating these demands on the electric- ity network. Research commis- sioned by the ENA has shown that by 2050 a continued role for the gas network will save customers £8 billion of invest- ment in reinforcing electricity distribution networks alone. This is alongside further savings for consumers in retaining an affordable source of heat; the use of existing appliances; avoiding decommissioning of the net- work; and the cost of additional power generation that would be required without gas. Not only does gas have a vital transitional role, but it can also play a long-term role in a sustain- able energy system in the form of "green gas" or "renewable gas". The UK has the fastest growing and most innovative biometh- ane market in Europe, with 32 operational biomethane-to-grid projects expected by the end of this summer. It is expected that by 2020 that number will have increased to more than 100. There is also potential for hydrogen, which leaves no car- bon footprint, to play a signifi- cant role in meeting future heat demand, with Northern Gas Net- works leading an innovative trial to assess the challenges, ben- efits and risks of converting the existing gas network in Leeds to a hydrogen network. The use of hydrogen in the network also holds exciting possibilities in terms of energy storage. Excess electricity generated from wind can be converted to hydrogen through electrolysis, which can then be stored in the gas net- work. Known as "power to gas", this technology provides a solu- tion to the intermittency of wind. In August, the ENA's Gas Futures Group began work on a report seeking to articulate the range of benefits to UK consum- ers and the economy of retaining gas in the energy mix and using our gas network over the coming decades to provide energy secu- rity at a lower cost for custom- ers. The report will also look at how the gas networks will func- tion in synergy with emerging low- carbon technologies such as green gas, heat networks and heat pumps. The UK's gas network is an extremely valuable and resilient asset and a feat of engineer- ing that has allowed industry to grow and provided an affordable way to heat our homes for many decades. It is also an asset that customers will continue to ben- efit as we continue the journey to the energy system of the future. * The ENA's Gas Futures Group has launched a tender for a con- sultancy to support the develop- ment of a report on the future of gas and the gas network in a whole energy system. Details of this tender are available on the ENA website, and all responses must be received by 11 September. ENTER the Utility Week Awards The industry-renowned Utility Week Awards close for entries on 18 September. More infor- mation about the awards, including judges' tips on how to submit an award-winning entry, on page 28. To enter: www.utilityweekawards.co.uk "We recognised since starting up ten years ago that as a monopoly, it is incumbent on us to deliver the very best service we can." Graham Edwards, chief executive, Wales & West Utilities, on the firm's score of 91.8 in the recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index, against a sector average of 76.

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