A British village will not be forced to give up its gas boilers and switch to hydrogen without the support of local residents, the Government has conceded, after a backlash against the plans.
Residents of Whitby, in Ellesmere Port, have protested against proposals for the gas grid in their area to be switched to hydrogen in 2025 as part of net zero trials.
The Government says it wants to test the viability of the fuel for home heating before making a decision on further rollout. But residents and experts have raised concerns over safety, costs, air pollution and the green credentials of the gas.
Whitby, home to around 2,000 people, is one of two neighbourhoods being considered for the trial, alongside Redcar in Teesside.
Ofgem is due to make a decision by the end of this year over which village will be switched to hydrogen based on bids by the two relevant gas networks, Cadent in Cheshire and Northern Gas Networks in Teesside. The trials are being funded through levies on consumer bills, including £9m for the initial bidding stage.
Although residents will have a choice between a hydrogen boiler and heat pump, they would not be able to opt out of the trial once a decision has been made.
Their gas supply would be turned off and the gas companies could force entry into their homes to switch appliances if necessary.
But at a meeting organised by Cheshire West and Chester Council on Tuesday night, the Government said in a prepared statement that it would “not go ahead with a trial in an area where there is not strong local support”.
The concession raises doubts about the viability of the trial, given significant opposition to the plans.
“Strong community engagement support is vital for the success of a project like this,” the Government statement said. “That is why evidence of substantial local support validated by an external independent source such as the local council is one of our key assessment criteria in selecting a location.”