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Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the North of England’s gas distributor, has revealed that between April and July this year, the company’s combined vehicle fleet and car mileage reduced by a quarter, while its key workers continued to deliver vital services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figures gathered by NGN as part of Clean Air Day (Thursday 8 October), have revealed carbon savings equivalent to the typical quarterly gas use of 672 homes.

This reduction in business mileage was largely due to office-based staff working from home, with engineers continuing to use fleet vehicles to provide emergency repair and essential services during this time.

Neil Whalley, Environmental Strategy Manager at NGN explains: ‘We realised early in the pandemic that our new ways of working would have a positive environmental impact, but it was quite staggering when we started to crunch the numbers.

“Like many companies, we had the technology to work remotely without compromising customer service but had never used it to its full potential until this need arose. In the first four weeks alone, colleagues saved 8,500 hours in commuting time alone and 400,000 miles in total.”

As government guidance continues to advise that employees should work at home where possible, NGN currently has over 600 home-based colleagues.

Based on published transport statistics, each week the company avoids almost 40,000 miles being driven and 2,630 hours of commuting time. The resulting carbon saving of 13 tonnes every week is the equivalent of all home-based employees taking a flight from London to Sydney, Australia.

The reduction in travelling delivers significant air quality benefits to local communities by cutting emissions, as well as contributing to the battle against climate change.

While the pandemic has provided an unplanned improvement in air quality, NGN has planned initiatives to improve air quality in the communities it serves.

  • The company will fund the planting of 40,000 trees in areas of poor urban air quality. The strategically located plantations will be designed to improve local air quality by including tree species that are proven to improve air quality;
  • Investment in the company’s fleet of 500 vehicles will ensure half are ultra-low emission or hybrid by 2026, and
  • Following recent innovation trials, an investment of over £16m will be made to upgrade gas preheating systems, which are used at NGN sites to prevent gas from freezing as it is transported through the network. Over 50 infrastructure sites will benefit from more sustainable, efficient technology which will deliver air quality benefits.

Northern Gas Networks is also working towards supporting the UK’s commitment to reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Currently 30 percent of UK carbon emissions come from heating homes connected to the gas network, which today stands at around 85 percent.

Several projects, focusing on converting the existing gas network to carry 100 percent hydrogen, are underway. As it contains no carbon element, hydrogen produces just heat and water when burned, making it a credible technology for greening the gas grid.