Energy Bill [HL]

Written Evidence submitted by  the ‘Against Whitby Hydrogen Village’ Ellesmere Port to the Public Bill Committee (EB16)

1. This evidence has been submitted by a group of 400+ residents who live within Whitby, Ellesmere Port, one of the locations being considered for the proposed Hydrogen Village Trial. Our submission is based on information and our experiences gathered over a 12 month period (since the Hydrogen Village Trial was first announced in May 2022) and is submitted to the Committee as a first-hand account of what the Hydrogen Village Trial means for the home owners impacted by the proposal. It also summarises some of the key observations that residents have made during this time about the viability of using hydrogen for home heating as well as the broader challenges of decarbonising domestic energy.

2. The evidence primarily addresses Part 3 (New Technology) Chapter 2 (Hydrogen Grid Conversion Trials) of the Energy Bill, although is relevant to other parts of the Bill where hydrogen production, carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), the hydrogen levy, low carbon heat and heat networks are referred to.

3. Over the last 12 months we, the residents of Whitby have learned more about hydrogen than we ever thought we would need to, much to the surprise and disappointment it would seem, to those promoting the Whitby Hydrogen Village (WHV) trial. Said promoters, who misguidedly thought they could present a one-sided offer without any question, scrutiny or challenge from those who are impacted. Not only were we expected not to undertake and distribute our own research, but when we did we were labelled as "scaremongers". "Scaremongers" for doing the job that the G as D istribution N etwork (GDN) failed to do.

3.1. The GDN failed to provide a balance of information, not only the benefits but the negatives & risks too, so that our friends and neighbours had all the information required to make an informed decision about the future of their own homes.

3.2. Despite requests, the GDN’s refused to hold any public discussions with independent bodies, to allow residents to ask questions and have access to unbiased information.

3.3. This forced us to seek out our own information. The information we found was not from fanatical "anti-hydrogen" campaigners, but instead, from a range of highly respected scientists, engineers and academics, some of whom are also trusted government advisers.

3.4. Even so, our findings were ridiculed and belittled by the GDN who publicly branded it as ‘misinformation and then published their own ‘fact sheet’ on their website, supposedly correcting our misinformation. This ‘fact sheet’, when reviewed by the same highly respected scientists, engineers and academics was found to include many inaccuracies so was withdrawn from their website to be rewritten.

3.5. Consumers should not have to face such a tortuous process in order to obtain the balanced information they deserve, to make a balanced, well informed decision that impacts them, their life, their home and their family.

3.6. In fact, the GDN was explicitly directed to conduct a full and open consultation with residents as part of their submission. What we got was a PR campaign which does not stand up to evidence-based scrutiny.

4. Our community should not have been forced in to this situation.

4.1. We should never have been left with unanswered questions .

4.2. We should not have been denied access to research about whether the Trial would impact the value of our homes .

4.3. We should not have had to fight to get our voices heard.

4.4. The Trial should never have been allowed to progress to this stage without the appropriate consultation, due diligence, and resident protection put in place, to ensure that residents had factual and evidence based information - rather than a greenwashing folly from the companies who have a vested interest in the trials going ahead.

4.5. If due diligence had been undertaken correctly, then maybe the Government & Cheshire West and Chester Council may have read the peer review by Jan Rosenow [1] which reviewed 32 independent studies, all reaching the same conclusion - that there is no role for hydrogen in home heating. Since that time (September 2022 - May 2023) there have been 41 reports in total, all saying the same thing. That hydrogen will not play a major role in the UK domestic heating economy.

5. The amount of unnecessary stress and anxiety that this Trial has already caused is unacceptable, and it’s ludicrous to continue to progress this futile ‘experiment’ to reach the same inevitable conclusions:-

5.1. That hydrogen production, by whatever method, is an inefficient use of scarce natural resources.

5.2. That hydrogen (whatever colour !) is costly to produce and will therefore cost the consumer more than either natural gas or electricity.

5.3. That green hydrogen is an inefficient use of renewable electricity and will require more of it than is available.

5.4. As there will be insufficient ‘green’ hydrogen for domestic use, the quality of the hydrogen consumers will ultimately receive, will be ‘dirtier’ and therefore more polluting than using existing natural gas or electricity .

5.5. That the CCUS required to successfully manufacture ‘blue’ hydrogen is unproven at the scale required - so the hydrogen will continue to be grey.

5.6. That blue hydrogen requires more methane and will increase CO2 emissions compared to using methane in natural gas alone - it will simply prolong the business model of the fossil fuel industry.

5.7. That production of hydrogen from methane will lead to greater upstream methane leakage with methane being a far more potent greenhouse gas that CO2 .

5.8. That the increased volumes of methane required to produce hydrogen will lead to increased natural gas imports thus reducing the UKs energy security .

5.9. That significant questions remain about the safety of using hydrogen in the home.

5.10. That whilst burning hydrogen in the home will not produce CO2, it will produce increased NOX emissions, a health risk and a greenhouse gas.

5.11. Hydrogen leakage into the atmosphere can also affect ozone concentrations, potentially harming air quality and the recovery of the ozone layer as well as creating water vapor in the atmosphere, enhancing the greenhouse gas effect.

5.12. That questions remain about the suitability of using aged pipelines and infrastructure not designed to transport hydrogen.

5.13. That aged pipelines , transporting hydrogen under pressure are significantly susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement and leakage .

5.14. That questions remain about the mitigations required to reduce the inherent risks of using hydrogen in the home, such as the need to add vents to rooms housing hydrogen appliances.

5.15. That by pursuing the use of hydrogen in the home simply acts as a decoy away from actively researching the alternatives which will have a greater impact in the decarbonisation race.

5.16. That using hydrogen is less efficient than direct electrification, meaning the consumer will need more of it to heat their home - which will cost the consumer even more, which will push more of the UK into fuel poverty .

5.17. AND, that there is a role for hydrogen to play in decarbonisation - by directing valuable, scarce green hydrogen towards those hard to abate industries that have no alternatives such as electrification.

6. The residents of Whitby have fought hard to have their voices heard, and have, against all odds, managed to secure some great wins in the battle to protect their homes from unwanted and unnecessary modifications. This has come at a price however, with many residents being compelled to spend too many hours of their valuable time in researching to unearth the truth, with the inevitable impact that has had on their health and family lives. To date we have:-

6.1. Seen the Citizens Advice Bureau stepping away from the scheme, as they were not happy with how the GDN were using the relationship to imply support for the Trials, which would put their independent position at risk.

6.2. Secured a public debate [1] with experts from across the industry - something we were originally denied.

6.3. Secured a public vote - again, something we were originally denied by the GDN.

6.4. Secured a significant change to the offer allowing residents to remain on natural gas if they wish (something we were told was not possible only a few months ago) by building a new pipe network alongside the existing one – however, this pipeline will inevitably introduce significant disruption to the whole of the Trial area and add significant extra cost, either to the taxpayer or the GDN.

6.5. Seen a significant shift in the position of our MP, who originally supported the Trial but is now sceptical [2] .

6.6. Seen a very clear and public backlash to the Trial and the lack of support from our local politicians - during the recent local elections residents demonstrated at the ballot box their anger at being treated with such contempt (one of the Whitby wards ousted the sitting Labour Councillor and replaced them with a Green Councillor and in the other the lead of the sitting Labour Councillor was reduced from 20% to 2% by the challenger Green Party candidate.

6.7. Exposed the underhand tactics of the GDN and other players in these trials by publishing mis/disinformation, designed to hide the full facts about hydrogen use in the home, in order to win Government backing to proceed with a trial against the wishes of the residents involved.

7. These are huge achievements, against all the odds, and we want to make sure that we use our experience to benefit as many people as possible. We therefore urge the Committee to take this evidence into account when considering the Energy Bill, and to:-

7.1. Remove Clause 114 which seeks to modify the Gas Act 1986 and infer powers of entry for the duration of the Trial – the threat of this happening is unnecessary, is not conducive to encouraging engagement and is a breach of Article 8 of the UK Human Rights Act (the right to private and family life) .

7.2. Expand the definition of "trial location" in Clause 115 section (1) subsection (a) to include "potential trial location" such that consumers within an area identified as a ‘potential’ trial location are subject to the protections within the Bill.

7.3. Build on the requirement for ‘information ‘ to be provided in Clause 115 section (5) subsection (c) to stipulate that the information should be balanced and independently sourced/validated.

7.4. Insert an additional section to Clause 115 to stipulate in law that an area will only be subject to a Trial if there is "significant local support", that a measure for "significant local support" is specified which is independently measured and validated.

7.5. Scrap the introduction of a hydrogen levy - consumers and taxpayers should not be expected to pay the price for something that is never going to happen, or only happen in industry - if it really is the future, then the fossil fuel and other industry beneficiaries of that should be prepared to put their money where their mouths are.

7.6. Cancel the Grid Conversion Trials altogether - it is clear from many sources that there is no role for hydrogen in the home and to continue to pursue the Trials is simply a waste of a vast amount of taxpayers money and a distraction from moving towards solutions which are genuinely going to support the UKs net zero targets. The trials were commissioned to inform the government decision on the use of hydrogen for home heating to be taken in 2026 however, the Fife 100 trial is now running a year late, the Village Trial is now being announced to start in 2026 and the Town Trial would not be starting until 2030 at the earliest. These trials cannot therefore provide any usable evidence for a government decision in 2026 and simply forces residents onto a fuel, past that decision date, that is most likely to be rejected by the government when a fully informed decision is taken to reject hydrogen for home heating.

8. By rejecting the use of hydrogen for home heating we are not rejecting the need to change the way we heat our homes, in fact, the majority of our community are keen to play our part; however, it needs to be the right change, backed up by industry experts - not lobbied by the fossil fuel industry. Neither are we rejecting hydrogen per se - we understand (more than most) that it has a valuable role to play in decarbonising industrial sectors.

9. Neither should we forget the importance of home insulation. Currently, approximately 14% of UK emissions come from home heating, all of which can be reduced significantly by better insulation. This would result in lower energy bills for the consumer and less domestic emissions. Home insulation should be a government priority, and will be needed regardless of whatever energy source is chosen for the future.

One thing is for sure, the energy of the future will not be hydrogen.

May 2023.


Prepared 7th June 2023