The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

New report calls on Ofgem to ensure rural is treated fairly in energy transition

New research commissioned by Citizens Advice's shows that geography and the existing network plays in a bit part in determining the best approach to future energy supplies.

The Heating homes in different regions of Great Britain report says that to “achieve full decarbonisation of UK buildings by 2050, it will be necessary to completely phase out natural gas and fossil fuel heating systems and replace them with appropriate low-carbon alternatives. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Various technologies, such as heat pumps, heat networks, hydrogen boilers and others, will be required for scaling up decarbonisation.”

It goes on to highlight “the need for a locational approach to heat decarbonisation and advocate for decisions in consumers' best interests. Understanding cost disparities across different geographical areas is critical in ensuring a fair and equitable transition to low-carbon heating. This information can help policymakers make informed decisions that consider the potential impact on consumers in different regions and communities.”

The research considered different housing stock in different geographical areas and found that “Providing upgrades to the gas grid infrastructure in all parts of GB to allow consumers to choose if they want hydrogen or electrified heating will place a significant extra cost onto consumers.” Instead, the report advocates that Ofgem takes a “locational approach to low-carbon heating (which) would mean that gas network is only upgraded to hydrogen in certain regions where it makes financial sense to do so…. For example, our analysis has identified rural areas as most suitable for electrification of heat, particularly the North of Scotland and South West of England.

The report also says that “Ofgem needs to consider how they will ensure sufficient network planning and investment is provided for the electricity grid to cope with mass electrification of domestic heat. Our analysis shows only a small number of areas will be potentially suitable for hydrogen.”

RSN Chief Executive, Kerry Booth, is welcoming the findings:

“This report highlights many of the issues RSN has been raising regarding a heat-pump-first approach for rural areas.  Instead of taking a piecemeal approach to our energy network, we need to look at it holistically. These finding suggest that the electrification of heating is best for rural networks as connecting rural homes to a hydrogen gas grid would be too costly.  But, it also says that the electricity network would have to be upgraded to ensure it isn’t overloaded. 

“This report is the first step in taking a more pragmatic approach to our 2030 targets and I would urge Ministers to read this and then consider what else is out there as well.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for this and it is an opportunity for true innovation to make rural AND urban communities truly sustainable.”

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