A survey carried out by Accent on behalf of the Energy Networks Association (ENA) shows that senior government and business leaders back a pivotal role for gas networks in the future.
Close to 80% of stakeholders surveyed see the gas transmission and distribution networks as having a continued key role for heating. The networks are a critical piece of national infrastructure, thanks to decades of investment which provide reliable, secure and flexible sources of energy to 23m homes across Britain.
The survey targeted close to 80 senior-level, national stakeholders from businesses, consumer groups, the government and think tanks.
At a time of rapid industry change, the survey shows that stakeholders see a role for the gas networks in three key areas: driving innovation across Britain; developing the role of gas for heating; and helping to decarbonise the energy system. Industry stakeholders want to see the gas networks prioritising these three key areas, today and as they develop business plans for the forthcoming Ofgem RIIO2 regulatory period.
Innovation is a top priority for 86% of stakeholders surveyed. There continues to be widespread support for decarbonising the energy system to provide low-carbon and cost-effective energy, with a clear role for Britain's gas networks in delivering this. Close to 80% of stakeholders surveyed said decarbonisation and the environment are high priority issues for them. By building on the innovative work already taking place, the gas networks are developing an economically and technically-feasible pathway for decarbonised gas to help meet the target set to reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.
The survey results also signal a continued shift toward the need for a more integrated energy system, with 70% of stakeholders surveyed wanting to discuss how best to use both Britain's gas and electricity networks within the energy system. By taking a ‘Whole System Approach' it means looking at optimal network investment and operational decisions for the whole energy network, not just the individual parts in isolation.
Expanding on the findings of this survey, a bespoke, face-to-face workshop will be held in early 2019 to explore stakeholder priorities for the future of the gas networks in greater depth, including how the networks should tackle key challenges across the whole energy system.
ENA chief executive David Smith said: "There is a very bright future for Britain's gas networks which play a pivotal role in delivering a cleaner, smarter and more efficiency energy system fit for the British public.
"The gas networks are known for delivering some of the most innovative energy projects in the UK, with almost £200m invested in these industry-leading projects since 2013.
"It is clear that the wider energy industry wants to see Government policy and the RIIO2 regulatory framework enabling the networks to deliver the investment and innovation needed for the low-carbon and cost-effective energy system of the future."