Go-ahead for 'green' gas to heat homes

Five projects to pipe "green" gas into people's homes for heating are set to go ahead after the Government announced support for the renewable technology.

Five projects to pipe "green" gas into people's homes for heating are set to go ahead after the Government announced support for the renewable technology.

British Gas said it would push forward with demonstration schemes which are likely to be the first to inject biomethane - made from organic material such as sewage, slurry and food waste - into the grid.

Biomethane is similar to natural gas and can be upgraded for use in the existing gas network for people to use in their central heating boilers or even for cooking.

The first project, in which British Gas will be working with Thames Water and Scotia Gas Networks, involves a plant at Didcot sewage works to clean biogas created in sewage processing and feed it into the grid.

The first green gas could be flowing from the site into the grid this summer, British Gas said.

The other projects will begin with feasibility studies with four other companies to look at delivering biomethane from food waste and farm crops, manufacturing waste, farm waste slurry and brewery waste.

The five schemes were given the green light by British Gas after the Government announced injecting biomethane into the grid would qualify for cash under plans for the renewable heat incentive.

The incentive, which will pay fixed rates for the amount of heat energy generated from green sources, will apply to systems of all sizes including solar thermal panels, ground source heat pumps and biomass plants.

The scheme, which aims to boost the level of heat generated by renewables from less than 1 per cent of total UK demand up to 12 per cent, comes into force in April 2011.

A study for National Grid last year suggested up to half the UK's homes could be heated with gas made from organic waste or sewage in the long term.

Gearoid Lane, managing director of communities and new energy at British Gas, said: "We're delighted that the Government will provide support to make investment in biomethane commercially viable.

"With 85 per cent of homes heated by natural gas, this is a fantastic opportunity to deliver renewable heat through our existing gas network and central heating boilers."

Mel Karam, Thames Water's director of asset management, said: "Our project with Centrica and Scotia Gas Networks at Didcot marks a big step forward for our 'poo power' endeavours.

"For decades we've generated electricity by burning sewage sludge or methane derived from it, saving £15 million in power bills last year alone.

"Next on our renewable energy hit list is using biomethane from sewage as another source of gas, so to see it become a reality later this year will be great for customers and great for the environment."

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