‘Hydrogen village’ residents offered opt in/out choice for proposed scheme

Hydrogen Experience Centre

All residents in the Cheshire village of Whitby, chosen to become the UK’s first hydrogen village, are to be given a choice in participating in the scheme.

In May 2022, gas distribution network Cadent and British Gas, supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council, announced plans which would lead to up to 2,000 Whitby properties stopping the use of natural gas for heating and cooking, and switching to hydrogen.

But the proposals have come under fire from some residents who are resistant to the scheme.

So, this morning (March 29), Cadent and British Gas have written to all 2,000 residents living in the proposed location of the Hydrogen Village, near Ellesmere Port, offering them the choice to participate in the programme.

This opt-in/opt-out offer comes after 10 months of in-person and virtual consultation, with Cadent and British Gas collating views and feedback that will inform their final submission due to be delivered to the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero in the coming days.

Cadent said it has acted on the feedback received and has confirmed that in its proposal, that sets out how the programme will run, they will now be offering residents a choice between being involved in the Hydrogen Village programme and using hydrogen to heat their homes, or staying on natural gas.

To deliver this, Cadent proposes to lay a parallel gas main in Whitby.

The existing gas main will transport hydrogen to the properties that opt into the programme, and the newly laid main will supply natural gas to any properties that decide to opt-out.

Marc Clarke, head of hydrogen customer at Cadent Gas, said: “We have been in listening mode throughout this entire consultation period.

“We have heard a lot of things that residents like about the programme and equally things that they would like us to change. At Cadent, we are accountable to the 11 million customers we serve and their feedback shapes and guides how we operate every single day. The Hydrogen Village programme is no different.

“There has been a broad church of opinions that have come from right across the local community. This input is vitally important to how we shape our plans and submission, and we have always stated that we will only do what is right for the community.”

He added: “We have acted on what we have heard, and we believe we are doing the right thing. We hope that the local community will choose to play their part in this programme, taking advantage of the many benefits on offer as they help us understand the future of heating.”

Tim Green, head of hydrogen customer experience for Whitby at British Gas, said: “At British Gas, we’re on a mission to lower household emissions for good, and we believe the qualities of hydrogen mean it could play a pivotal role in achieving this.

“Delivering what customers want is at the heart of everything we do at British Gas, which is why we support this revised proposal. It gives customers a clear choice and is why we are proud to be partnering with Cadent to deliver this government-backed programme in Whitby.”

As part of the new proposal, and unveiled directly to residents today, Cadent and British Gas outlined a wide range of benefits available to residents in recognition of their time and assistance in the programme, these include:

  • Brand new hydrogen appliances, installed and maintained for free
  • Price matching of hydrogen to natural gas for the entire programme duration
  • £2,500 – or the equivalent in-home energy efficiency improvements
  • A new home Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Reimbursement of 50% of the cost of appliances replaced – if under three years old
  • British Gas Homecare Complete and Gas Appliance cover during the trial
  • An assurance that any increase in home insurance is covered and paid for
  • Free central heating filter, Hive smart heating thermostat, power-flushing, and installation of TRVs (Thermostatic Radiator Valves)

Cadent also confirmed that it will convert all residents back to natural gas at the end of the timeframe, removing hydrogen appliances and installing brand new natural gas appliances free of charge, as it reconnects residents to the natural gas supply.

As part of the ongoing consultation and engagement process, Cadent and British Gas will host a series of dedicated information events, where residents can learn more, discuss the proposals and understand their options in detail.

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