Inclusive Innovation: Safeguarding the Switch to Domestic Hydrogen

The UK Government is exploring the possibility of switching some homes from natural gas to hydrogen to help the country reach net zero carbon emissions.

Wales & West Utilities commissioned Energy Systems Catapult to run a project to understand how to enable this transition to work well for vulnerable consumers, if it is undertaken.

To do this, Energy Systems Catapult engaged with a series of industry experts and reviewed the available evidence. This helped to understand what a transition of domestic properties from natural gas to hydrogen is likely to entail for consumers, and what steps should be considered to enable the transition to go well.

Once the process was defined, we then engaged with consumers in a variety of vulnerable situations to discuss any challenges the proposed process may present to them. In understanding these challenges, the project then sought to further engage with both a range of experts and vulnerable consumers to co-create appropriate packages of support to preserve wellbeing during a transition to hydrogen.

Key points

The Inclusive Innovation: Safeguarding the Switch to Domestic Hydrogen project was able to successfully map out the key consumer touch points during a transition and identify what demands could be placed on consumers.

This enabled appropriate packages of support to be designed that should be considered when seeking to support affected residents during each of the following eventualities – that could occur during a transition to domestic hydrogen. These included:

  • Enabling a surveyor to access and conduct a survey at the property prior to the conversion
  • What to do if an unsafe gas appliance is discovered during the property survey, and must be disconnected until it can be repaired or replaced
  • How best to capture important information about the personal circumstances of those who live in the home (e.g. health, finances) to understand how best to support them during the conversion
  • Occupant expectation if a gas appliance in the home is deemed incompatible with hydrogen so cannot be adapted, and must be replaced
  • What support is needed if an occupant does not have gas for cooking, heating or hot water for a few days
  • How best to navigate and safeguard residents if more complex works at required at the property e.g. upgrading the existing pipework

Many concerns were identified when discussing the different consumer touch points. These included:

  • Issues with increased anxiety
  • The impact of any disruption to important daily routines
  • A range of potential cost implications for residents, and
  • Heightened risk of accident or injury due to a variety of impairments.

For each consumer touch point, three tiers of support were co-created in order to mitigate these issues. The lower tier being offered to everyone, with the other tiers used for people with more specific needs. The support offered included:

  • The provision of temporary equipment
  • Help to access local community support, involving 3rd parties to support consumers at certain points, and in some instances
  • The offer to take the occupant away from the property whilst the work is ongoing.

The project was further able to establish some of the challenges that may arise if seeking to deploy hydrogen on a larger scale across the UK, as well as identifying several key factors that should be considered in parallel to the conversion, to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Read the Report

Inclusive Innovation: Safeguarding the Switch to Domestic Hydrogen

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