Homeowners in Cheshire 'hydrogen town' to be offered choice if they want to take part

  • Campaigner Kate Grannell gives her reaction to the change in policy

Homeowners in a town are to be offered the choice to opt out of a trial to switch to hydrogen energy in a reversal campaigners have called a "David versus Goliath" moment.

The scheme in Whitby in Ellesmere Port had caused controversy with claims that British Gas were forcing residents to switch their natural gas, cooking and heating to green hydrogen.

There were concerns over the cost and safety of moving to hydrogen power.

On Wednesday 29 March, the 2,000 residents in the catchment area received a letter offering them the chance to go with hydrogen or stick with their existing supplier.

They also offered the following to residents in the town:

  • 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)

  • Video report by correspondent Andy Bonner from 15 February 2023 about a public conference on the use of hydrogen power

Kate Grannell, a Whitby resident who opposed the scheme, hailed the change in policy as a "David versus Goliath moment".

Kate said: "I am ecstatic. It's a fantastic result for us, we've been campaigning against this for eight months.

"There's so many residents that are happy they have the choice. That freedom of choice up until now had completely been removed.

"We had been asking 'where is the rights to our own homes?'

"We still want a vote on whether the trial should go ahead at all. I think they are too far down the road to admit they got this wrong."

Ms Grannell confirmed she will be exercising her right to opt out of the scheme.

Cadent says 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.

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.

"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.

"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.”

  • Video report by correspondent Tim Scott from 26 January 2023 outlining why some Whitby residents are opposed to hydrogen power

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”.

Hydrogen is seen by some as the ideal fuel to replace natural gas in homes and help the government hit its climate targets.

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