Imperial College London

Annual lecture explores hydrogen’s role in decarbonising heat on net zero path


Photo of gas tubes with orange sky

Dr Angela Needle, Director of Strategy of Cadent Gas, gave the 2021 Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) annual lecture.

Dr Needle discussed the challenge of decarbonising heat in the delivery of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the role that hydrogen plays in this endeavour. 

In August 2021, the UK Government set out its ambition to kick-start a “hydrogen revolution” by using more hydrogen in the path to net zero. Dr Needle discussed how hydrogen could indeed help decarbonise UK heating, which is largely controlled by the natural gas network. 

In the UK, 22 million homes rely on the natural gas grid for heating, and 17 per cent of UK carbon emissions come from heat. Decarbonising the way we heat our buildings will cost the UK an estimated £250 billion. 

As well as using more hydrogen, Dr Needle emphasised how our buildings also need to be better insulated. UK homes perform the worst in Europe at keeping heat in. With an inside temperature of 20°C and outside temperature of 0°C, the average UK home can expect to lose 3°C within five hours. Over the same period, Norway’s homes lose 0.9°C, which is the lowest rate of heat loss in Europe. 

Dr Needle, who is also Vice President of Hydrogen UK, was introduced by SGI Director Professor Adam Hawkes, also of Imperial's Department of Chemical Engineering. The talk was followed by a live Q&A. You can watch the full talk in the video below. 

Topics included: 

  • Why decarbonising heat is such a challenge in the delivery of net zero  
  • The polarising debates around the role of hydrogen and why they are not helpful  
  • The essential role of consumers in achieving net zero – and why we should listen to them  
  • The role that hydrogen should take in supporting the heating ambition  
  • The work that Cadent Gas and others in the sector are delivering to turn concept into reality 

About the SGI 

Since 2014, the SGI has provided thought leadership and authoritative interdisciplinary evidence and analysis on the role of natural gas, hydrogen and biogas/biomethane in future low carbon energy systems. 

Researchers at the Institute manage, lead and deliver world-class research with our global partners across the spectrum of science, engineering, economics and business to support policymakers and industry in their decision-making. The institute is led by Professor Adam Hawkes, and its governance board is chaired by Professor Nigel Brandon

Image: Shutterstock


Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
Communications Division

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