“I love the smell of napalm in the morning”

23rd Oct 2017


It’s a memorable quote from the film, “Apocolypse Now”, featuring the maverick cavalry officer who wanted to surf whilst in action, to the music from Ride of the Valkyries.

Well last week I spoke at the launch of the Energy Research Partnerships report into the “Transition to low carbon heat”. It was an invited audience, from across the industry, and after the set-piece speeches there was the usual panel Q&A. Now I love a good Q&A.

One member of the audience took exception to me suggesting the UK should look at dedicated energy crops to convert into biogas as a means of decarbonisation of heat. Obviously I gently tried to persuade him of the logic of this stance, as part of (not the sole means) of decarbonisation. As I said, I love a Q&A. So yes, I did point out that his “all-electric” option – burning wood in power stations to generate “renewable electric” had the same logic as creating gas from the same feedstock. I didn’t have time to also say, that gas would be a more flexible option, with more efficient use of the energy generated – but it is.

My comment came as fresh evidence emerged of the potential role bioenergy has in decarbonising the gas networks. Commissioned by Cadent, Anthesis and E4Tech suggest that up to 15 million homes could be heated by 2050 from biogas. This comprises between 47-56 TWh from waste feedstocks and 21-127 TWh from non-waste, but renewable feedstock such as energy crops, short rotation forestry and residues from agriculture/forestry.

Combined with the on-going work around hydrogen, both blending and 100 per cent, and it is clear that “green gas” enables the gas networks to continue to provide the backbone infrastructure needed in the UK and heating appliances can continue to be used in the same manner too. Perhaps that is why the “all electric” members of the audience were a bit tetchy last week.