Community fears deindustrialisation

1st Jul 2024


Last week I spent a few sweltering days in Brighton at a trade union conference. My hosts were Community, a trade union of over 40,000 members.

Historically, they were the union that represented UK steelworkers. During a number of discussions with their officials and members it became clear that they fear decarbonisation is simply fuelling deindustrialisation. Their bitter experience in Port Talbot suggests they may be right to be concerned.

I was asked to address the conference and in doing so, asked the delegates to remember three numbers I wanted them to mull over. (Thanks to IGEM for providing the data).

Given that some organisations (and I’ll call out the National Infrastructure Commission) want to see the GDNs decommissioned, I gave the union these stats:-

67,000 – the number of industrial connections to the gas networks (this includes several hundred foundries, employing tens of thousands of people, spread across the UK). What do they do without gas? Close down, relocate to a hydrogen industrial cluster or keep being served by a re-purposed network delivering decarbonised gas?

460,000 – the number of commercial connections to the gas networks (this includes several hundred crematoria, responsible for 500,000 cremations a year, spread across the UK). What do they do without gas? I suggest you google “resomation” known as ‘boil in the bag.’ Then I suspect you will conclude; we need to keep a gas connection.

25 million – the number of domestic gas connections to the networks, covering 85 per cent of all homes in the UK. Why would you stop them using the same gas network that we need for both industrial and commercial users? How do they pay for the alternatives, which are widely acknowledged cost more than a boiler?

Looking at the whole system this way, rather than a narrow focus on the efficiency of a single appliance compared to its alternative, has to be the right way forward. Obviously if you subscribe to what I call ‘a platform of prejudice,’ then the social consequences of decarbonisation are of little concern for you. But they matter to most people and certainly they concern Community.

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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