ENERGY suppliers have called for increased investment in hydrogen as a clean alternative to natural gas to be part of the new programme for government amidst a deepening cost of living crisis caused by high gas prices.

Energy UK, the industry trade association, said the upcoming Queen's Speech should be used to make the biggest changes to the UK's energy laws for a decade and set the foundations for the next decade to deliver a low carbon power system by 2035 and a green economy by 2050.

It comes as the Prime Minister urged the bosses of BP and Shell to keep investing in wind farms and hydrogen to drive down bills.

The UK government believes a world-leading hydrogen economy would support over 9,000 UK jobs and unlock £4 billion investment by 2030.

Energy prices have rocketed in the last year, and last month the energy price cap was increased by 54% for the average household.

Earlier this week, it emerged Grangemouth Refinery owner Ineos was behind a new £30m project launched in Scotland to find out if hydrogen can be a clean alternative to natural gas, for homes and businesses.

It is working with the business that runs Scotland’s gas networks, SGN to try to bring hydrogen distribution networks a step closer to reality in the UK.

Hydrogen is being championed as the fuel of the future and experts believe it can help tackle the biggest root cause of climate change - air pollution.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA), the industry body representing energy network operators in the UK says that hydrogen could heat homes around the country from next year, with all five of Britain's gas grid companies preparing to provide the gas.

The Herald revealed that thousands faced soaring mortgage payments after interest rates were hiked to the highest level for 13 years on Thursday, further fuelling a cost-of-living crisis that analysis has revealed will leave the average Scots family over £2100 a year worse off.

A New Economics Foundation (NEF) analysis has calculated that 1.7m people in Scotland will not be able to afford the cost of living rise this year, and that even middle-income families will now suffer.

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Bills are likely to rise even further in October when the price cap is next revisited.

Energy UK say that the Queen's Speech should be the platform for a new energy bill in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the knock on impact it has had in global increases in energy prices.

They say that it would be used to enable innovation in net zero technologies by delivering new business models hydrogen production and storage as well as carbon capture.

They say there should be a strengthening of regulations to improve energy efficiency in building across the country, with the group advocating more smart meters, low-carbon heating alternatives, and charging points for electric cars.

It wants reforms that will supporting the delivery of the government’s targets for 50 Gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050 and increased use of solar and battery storage.

It suggests setting a requirement for off gas grid properties to move to low-carbon heating technology at the end of the life of their existing heating source, addressing what it called "the most polluting properties" and stimulating the market for low carbon heat.

And it wants the energy regulator Ofgem to introduce 'fit and proper persons’ reforms to ensure new energy suppliers are run properly.

"The energy sector has undergone a huge transformation in the decade since the last Energy Bill and has the potential to go much further and faster towards a clean, modern and flexible system - with tangible benefits for customers, our economy and our environment," Dhara Vyas, Energy UK's director of advocacy, said.

"With record energy bills at present resulting from unprecedented international gas prices, we must seize this opportunity to expand our own sources of domestic clean energy, along with encouraging the widespread adoption of low-carbon technologies."

It wants established targets to become legally binding, and would include the phase out of coal by 2024, to send a "urther signal" towards the UK’s low carbon energy future.

"This country now has a raft of ambitious targets in place and the focus must now be on delivering these," added Mr Vyas.

"We can only do this with a bill that enables our sector to do what we need to do now and deliver on the full potential of the future energy system - so that progress isn't being blocked by outdated legislation and regulations drawn up for a different time."

Separately conservation charity WWF and insurance giant Aviva called on the Government to ensure that the Queen's Speech puts plans to cut emissions to net zero at the heart of how policy is made.

WWF boss Tanya Steele said: "WWF and Aviva share the same view - that the world still has time to avoid the worst impacts of a climate catastrophe, but only if all of us, especially governments and businesses, take immediate action.

"Shaping our net-zero future will create jobs and protect and restore the environment but for that to happen the forthcoming Green Finance Strategy must include a coherent transition plan for the whole of the UK economy."

During the State Opening of Parliament ceremony - held this year on May 10 - the Queen traditionally makes a speech setting out the Government's agenda and proposed policies and legislation.