Why the environment matters to me – Chris Barron

Chris Barron - DGA

To celebrate all things sustainability, help share tips for smarter environmental thinking and remind each other just how much our carbon impact matters, we’re inviting friends of the business and our peers in the wider industry to take part in this quickfire environmental Q&A.

Next up, it’s Chris Barron, chair of the Decarbonised Gas Alliance and director of gas networks at Costain

Let’s begin by learning a little more about The Decarbonised Gas Alliance – where do you fit into the environmental sector?

The Decarbonised Gas Alliance (DGA) is a joint industry group representing nearly 30 organisations who have come together to promote the use of decarbonised gases to meet the UK’s target of net zero climate emissions. Our aim is to articulate a shared view on how decarbonised gas of all types can help the UK reach net zero effectively, by both retaining funding for existing projects whilst shaping the future of the decarbonised gas industry.

The businesses we represent cover the complete decarbonised gas value chain – including green, blue and other ‘colours’ of hydrogen, gaseous fuels from biomass and plastics, as well as biogases and synthetic gas.  

Decarbonised gas in all forms will reduce carbon emissions and support the net zero economy for the UK in line with the Government’s Ten Point Plan commitments, so it’s a really exciting time for the sector.

And what does your role at The Decarbonised Gas Alliance involve?

As Chair of the Alliance, I take on the role of spokesperson – and champion the organisations we represent. At our recent 10-day UK Roadshow, we led the conversation on decarbonised gas as part of the solution to net zero – bringing together the three core elements of hydrogen use across industry, transport, and heat.

Travelling from Westminster to COP26, the DGA UK Roadshow held multiple events at relevant locations along its route, with the goal of reaching the local community, regional industry, and political stakeholders to raise awareness of the progress being made within the decarbonised gas sector – while also providing a forum for debate, networking, and opportunity exploration.

And where would you like to see the most environmental improvements over the next 12 months?

We need decarbonised gas to work at scale. This has the ability to keep costs down for households and protect existing jobs – plus create new ones – as well as enhance our country’s energy security. But we can’t do it alone.

Which ‘green’ innovation in your sector has the potential to create a real (even unexpected) impact?

Linking hydrogen with renewable generation.

If you were prime minister for the day, what’s the one thing you’d do to improve the UK’s sustainability agenda?

Following our UK Roadshow, the lack of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure was a challenge. Transport decarbonisation and giving consumers proper choice needs to be a focus.  The electric vehicle market is growing however a lack of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure makes this a more difficult choice for consumers.

Where have you seen impressive progress in the environmental sector?

Hydrogen – like many other decarbonised gases – can help us meet the UK’s ever-pressing need for net zero climate emissions, at low cost, with minimal disruption, while creating thousands of sustainable jobs across the country.

It has a particularly valuable role to play in the notoriously hard to decarbonise sectors – heavy transport, industry, and heat. As a nation, we rely heavily on these industries, but they account for over 40% of UK greenhouse gases.

As part of the UK Roadshow we showcased a number of innovations and industry first such as the work Fuel Cell Systems in Swindon is doing to develop mobile hydrogen refuelling products and systems. Likewise, ABSL in Swindon are spearheading the use of biohydrogen to use in the local gas network with Wales and West Utilities. Pilkington glass in St Helens have also recently undertook ground-breaking demonstrations using hydrogen to replace natural gas in powering the furnaces.

Share 1 tip to help people be ‘greener’, at work or at home:

Think about how you travel – are the journeys needed, can you use an alternative transport mode, and can you combine trips? These are all quick checks that we can talk about with family, friends, and colleagues, but the benefit of even small adjustments, could be vast.

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