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In the journey to net zero, decarbonising heating will be key

Most of the UK’s building stock is connected to the gas network – we need innovative solutions to move the grid towards a zero-carbon footprint.

By Mark Belmega

Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network, covering the north-west, East and West Midlands, South Yorkshire, east of England and north London. We sometimes still get referred to as the gas board by our customers, but our history goes back long before the establishment of those institutions in 1949, further back to the turn of the nineteenth century. For over two hundred years we and our predecessors have been maintaining one of the most comprehensive gas networks in the world.

Being a gas network operator, maintaining the safety and security of the UK’s energy supply is always number one on our priority list. We manage a network that spans 132,000km (that’s over three times around the earth) and provides energy to eleven million homes, businesses, schools and hospitals. But we want to be more than just an organisation measured by lengths of pipe – not because society expects businesses like ours to do more, but because we as the people who work in this business want to do more and be a force for good through our organisation.

With that in mind, we strive to create fairer opportunities and provide training to those who need it to succeed. By 2026 we will ensure our local delivery partners provide best-practice standards on equality, diversity, inclusion and fair pay. And we’re also working to inspire 100,000 people from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups to gain access to career opportunities in the energy sector by 2030.

As part of our Easier Warmth initiative, we have over one hundred Centres for Warmth across our footprint, supporting people who are financially vulnerable, through the provision of a wide range of support services to maximise their disposable income and reduce their energy usage. On average, visitors to these centres save around £2,500. Since 2021 we’ve supported over 40,000 customers across our footprint, creating a total social value of almost £100m. We plan to increase the number of centres to over 200 by 2026. Our Cadent Foundation is also dedicated to helping tackle fuel poverty. Through some amazing partnerships with organisations like Citizens Advice, Groundwork and the Trussell Trust, in the past year we have provided almost £3m to support this mission.

But in this world of energy insecurity and the move towards net zero, supporting customers means more than just the here and now. With well over 20 million homes and businesses across the UK heated by gas boilers and connected to the gas distribution network, managing the decarbonisation of heat will be one of the biggest political challenges of this decade and the next.

To put that 20 million figure into context, whatever solution (or range of solutions) the government picks to decarbonise heating, every one of those houses will require new appliances to be fitted. Millions of new boilers, new electric heating solutions, new cookers, new fires. Installed in nearly every house on nearly every street, from the far north of Scotland all the way down to Cornwall.

At Cadent, we, alongside the other gas networks, boiler manufacturers, and a range of industrial and political partners believe hydrogen can play a major role in supporting an easier and less disruptive transition to net-zero home heating. The UK isn’t alone in exploring hydrogen for home heating either, despite what some would have you believe. In the Netherlands, for example, a hydrogen for home heating trial is happening right now in the city of Lochem.

However, wherever the debate on hydrogen for home heating ends, we will still have over 20 million homes across the UK that will need support transitioning away from natural gas. That’s why we are partnering with the New Statesman at the Labour Party conference to put on a panel discussing how the energy sector can support customers on the journey to net zero. As the debate moves towards discussions as to what exactly the transition will look like for people across the length and breadth of the UK, at Cadent we are really keen to use this event to explore further how the energy sector can work with partners across business and politics to make sure the transition is a customer-focused one.

This will be an incredibly important issue, and one I hope many conference delegates will be interested to explore with us.

Ultimately, we want everyone at Cadent to be proud of the work we do to support customers across our networks, and I believe we are increasingly succeeding in that ambition.

For more information about Cadent, the initiatives mentioned above, or career opportunities, please visit us at

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