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Net-zero: why it’s more than just hydrogen and electrification

Duncan Carter, Head of Corporate Affairs

Duncan Carter, Head of Corporate Affairs | Calor Gas

3 min read Partner content

We need the full range of green technology to achieve net-zero. Calor’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Duncan Carter, explains why this must include renewable liquid gases.

As the Energy Security Bill continues its progress through the House, it will give government new powers across a wide range of areas critical to meeting net-zero including: carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, offshore wind, nuclear power, nuclear fusion, heat pumps and heat networks. The enormous scope of the bill reflects the enormity of the task in transitioning our economy, our businesses, and our homes to net-zero.

While the exact scope and role of each technology is still debated, it’s clear affordable and practical low carbon solutions are needed for all sectors, including so called ‘niche’ sectors.

Renewable liquid gases (RLGs), such as bioLPG and renewable dimethyl ether (rDME), offer an alternative low carbon solution where the ‘big hitters’ such as hydrogen or electrification may not be suitable. RLGs are a low carbon replacement for conventional liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and bioLPG has been available from Calor in the UK since 2018.

rDME will soon be produced in a UK pilot facility, while the UK’s first commercial-scale rDME production facility has just secured planning permission in the Teesworks freeport. rDME can be made from a wide range of feedstocks, but UK production will use non-recyclable household rubbish.

One niche where RLGs can play a role is ‘non-road mobile machinery’, such as construction machinery. Calor has entered the government’s red diesel replacement competition, exploring new lower carbon and less polluting alternatives to red diesel. Calor hopes to supply rDME to help decarbonise the construction sector, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 85% compared to diesel, while producing zero soot, zero SOx and lower NOx. rDME is an exciting fuel that reduces waste, improves air quality, and reduces GHG emissions all at the same time.

Renewable liquid gases (RLGs), such as bioLPG and rDME, offer an alternative low carbon solution where the ‘big hitters’ such as hydrogen or electrification may not be suitable

Another application for RLGs is home and business heating where electrification or hydrogen may not be the best option. While heat pumps may be technically suitable for the majority of homes if the cost or disruption involved in installation and retrofit is not considered, there are homes and businesses where heat pumps (and hydrogen) are impractical, such as many rural off-gas grid homes. Nearly 40% of rural homes were built before 1919, compared to just under 20% of urban homes, meaning they are often the least energy efficient. Yes, a heat pump can work, but it may mean a household must pay a large upfront retrofit cost or risk facing a high electricity bill. Another niche. It’s vital RLGs – and hybrid heat pumps – are recognised in government’s low carbon heat policies.

Over 17 months ago, the government consulted on banning replacement fossil fuel heating in off-gas grid homes starting in 2026, even though it’s not clear targeting rural homes first is sensible. Why not target ‘heat pump ready’ homes first instead, whether they are on or off the gas grid? Without a comprehensive plan for how all rural homes will transition to affordable, low carbon heat, including those unsuitable for heat pumps, it’s too early to introduce a ban. Despite the breadth of the Energy Security Bill, it has neglected this issue. We need plans not bans, and plans which include everyone, including the niche.

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