Residents of a Yorkshire town have called for an independent vote on hydrogen heating trials after proposals for the alternative location were called off.
Redcar homeowners have written a letter to the Government to warn of the “lack of substantial local support” as the town becomes the trial’s only remaining candidate.
It comes after the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) confirmed on Tuesday a trial will no longer take place in the Whitby area of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire following local protests.
Cadent, the gas distribution network for Whitby, and Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the network for Redcar in Yorkshire, earlier this year submitted rival bids to test the feasibility of a home-heating grid run without natural gas in about 2,000 homes.
But Cadent said on Tuesday the Government is now “likely to progress the trial in Redcar” after DESNZ said its proposal for Whitby is not preferred.
Redcar residents are now calling for an open local debate evening with independent experts and an independently managed vote on whether the trial should go ahead.
In its letter, the Redcar and Cleveland Hydrogen Trial Group said 565 signatures from the proposed hydrogen village trial have signed a petition for these measures.
The group expressed concern that political support for hydrogen home heating is waning and asked whether the trials should go ahead at all.
It also claimed NGN is “biased in their approach to this trial” and have “vested interest in the outcome”.
The group accused the distributer of making “highly inaccurate and unverified claims”, including by saying the proposed trial will lead to CO2 emissions.
The letter said: “As residents, we are extremely concerned that there is a lack of independent advice and evidence available to us.”
It said 43 independent studies from expert organisations like the International Environment Agency “find that hydrogen will play an extremely limited role in home heating in a net-zero world”.
“Redcar residents deserve unbiased information to help us make decisions that will directly affect our day to day lives,” it said.
“We call for independent experts to advise local residents on the risks and benefits of taking part in this trial, and more widely to advise the government on whether the trial should go ahead.”
Earlier this year, the Government said its proposed “hydrogen village trial” would not go ahead without strong local support.
It followed a backlash from homeowners in the proposed areas of Redcar and Whitby, with concerns that hydrogen is less safe, less energy-efficient and more expensive than gas or electric heat pumps.
Conservative peer Lord Callanan tweeted on Tuesday: “After listening to the views of residents, it’s clear that there is no strong local support, therefore Whitby will no longer be considered as the location for the UK’s first hydrogen village trial – discussions with NGN re Redcar are ongoing and we’ll announce next steps shortly.”
The proposed trial would begin in 2025 and last two years, with funding supplied by energy regulator Ofgem.
Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said calling off the Whitby trial is the “right decision” and residents need to be “fully informed” before making a decision.
He said: “This is a process that’s intrusive, it is a change to your house, it’s a change in the way you heat, it’s a change to potentially your bills in the future, it’s a change to the way you cook, it can change your own future plans for going to different sources.
“So they have to make sure that people are fully informed and not giving consent based on partial or poor information.”
Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at Global Witness, said: “Hydrogen does have a role to play in decarbonising our industry but it would be a disaster as a source of home heating – it’s explosive, expensive and it’s much worse for the climate than alternatives like heat pumps.
“With the Whitby trial now out of the question, the Government must now do the same with Redcar and end the disastrous hydrogen trials.”
An NGN spokesperson said: “We completed over 10 months of consultation in Redcar, including an independent survey which found 95% of residents and landlords felt positive or were neutral about our proposal.
“We also held a public meeting, conducted by an independent research company and the feedback was included in our proposal, which was submitted to Government.
“We entirely understand that there may be concerns about the move to hydrogen and electricity. Our door is always open, and we continue to actively encourage anyone with questions or reservations to come and speak to us at our ‘Hydrogen Hub’ on the High Street.”
“The Government is currently reviewing our project proposal before setting out next steps.”
PA has contacted DESNZ for comment.