Utilities to install intelligent prototype meters in UK’s first hydrogen houses

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UK energy company Northern Gas Networks is partnering with smart meter company MeteRSit to install some hydrogen meters in the country’s first houses to be powered entirely by hydrogen.

The intelligent meters, which MeteRSit is developing as part of the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)’s Hy4Heat project, will be installed at Northern Gas Network (NGN)’s site at Low Thornley in northern England.

In October 2019, MeterSit has been tasked by the UK government to develop a meter prototype that guarantees safety and the precise measurement of hydrogen flows. Some of the requirements for the meter are that it needs to meet Ofgem sector regulations and country specifications (SMETS 2), while also taking into consideration the particular characteristics of hydrogen in terms of its greater risks and reduced heating power by volume unit. MeterSit claims its thermo-mass technology has managed to ensure the prototype is small in size, another of the requirements of the tender the company won from the government.

Development of hydrogen houses

The construction of the hydrogen houses is expected to be completed by the end of May 2021 as part of a partnership between NGN and gas utility Cadent and the BEIS. In their efforts to develop a safe, efficient and technologically advanced use for hydrogen in private homes and commercial buildings, the three parties invested £250,000 ($346.790) towards the project.

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The project is the first in the UK in which households will interact with hydrogen-based systems and utilities such as meters, boilers, ovens and cooking surfaces, fireplaces and barbecues.

The project will demonstrate the use of hydrogen in meeting consumer energy needs whilst helping them reduce energy costs and reducing their carbon footprints. The initiative will highlight the role hydrogen can play in accomplishing the ambitious goals established by the British government: to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Unlike natural gas, which accounts for over 30% of carbon emissions, using hydrogen produces no carbon emissions, according to a statement.

Technology company Bosch will also provide boilers that use hydrogen power safety valves developed by SIT for the project.

Federico de’ Stefani, SIT S.p.A. CEO, claims that his company’s “expertise, market knowledge and ability to read consumption data with extreme accuracy are among the factors that saw us chosen for a project that is significant not just for SIT, but for the entire energy sector.

“These houses represent an important milestone in the construction of an energy future based on efficiency, safe and mindful usage of alternative gases and consumption data reading, thanks to IoT and self-regulating technologies. These elements are useful only if change starts with the consumer: the power to make our homes and spaces more sustainable and environmentally friendly is in our hands.”

Mark Horsley, the CEO of Northern Gas Networks, adds: “Gas networks are reliable and extremely resilient and responsive to demands. With 85% of the UK connected to the gas network, it is logical to re-purpose this vast asset to carry a clean-burning gas like hydrogen.”