E.ON explores use of gas networks to decarbonise heating sector

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Using existing gas networks to transport green gas such as hydrogen in the future is the most cost-effective and socially balanced solution for the energy transition in the heating sector, according to a study conducted by Germany multinational energy company E.ON.

The study was conducted in partnership with municipal utility Stadtwerke Essen.

Data generated from a digital twin developed by DigiKoo was used by E.ON and the city of Essen to model different future heat supply scenarios.

Some five different scenarios were investigated by the project and they include:

  • A gradual switch to green gas in the existing natural gas grid

The study found that switching to green gas using existing infrastructure will put less pressure, financially, on both consumers and utilities.

The option will also allow urban areas to meet climate targets as efficiently as possible.

The digital twin allows the major, overarching climate protection goals to be broken down regionally – down to each individual building. This helps municipalities to find the right strategies for cutting carbon emissions and to implement them together with their citizens.

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  • Switching to heat pumps
  • Further densification of district heating
  • The use of direct electric space heating as well as hybrid heat pumps

The results for Essen in all scenarios show that a solution entirely without gas is not realistic and, in many cases, will shift the costs of the energy transition to low-income neighbourhoods, whose residents would be forced to shoulder excessive financial burdens as a result.

E.ON board member Leonhard Birnbaum, said: “We can only meet our climate targets if we manage to significantly reduce our carbon footprint in the heating sector.

“Using the existing gas networks for this purpose is not only the most socially acceptable, but also the most economical solution because it avoids costly refurbishments and hence rent increases. We want to gradually integrate green gases into the energy system which requires an appropriate political framework, for example in the form of a quota for climate-neutral gases.”