National Grid Future Energy Scenarios: local generation and EVs can help decarbonise

The UK will have much more power generating capacity in 2050 than in does today, up from 103GW to between 189GW and 286GW, National Grid says in its latest ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ document. The new capacity could be mainly be small, local plants: in one pathway local generators will represent 65% of the UK’s capacity,

The expanded capacity will meet increasing power needs from a rapidly-growing electric car fleet – the System Operator suggests there will be up to 11 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2030 and 36 million by 2040.

But despite the much larger electricity usage, the SO says the increase in electricity peak demand could be relatively low – as little as 8GW in 2040. That can be managed if consumers charge vehicles at off peak times and use vehicle-to-grid technology to help manage the system.

That means the market will have
to adapt to the new mix of power suppliers and customers, and industry processes will have to be re-examined, the SO said, but the change will open the door to new services.

The SO was less clear on the likely evolution of heating, with scenarios varying from a huge expansion in heat pumps, to a switch to use hydrogen in the existing gas network.

Al l the SO’s scenarios have much more focus on local energy than in recent years. But only two meet the 2050 target. One, ‘Community Renewables’ sees the largest shift to local decentralised plant. The other, ‘Two Degrees’ has a large shift to low carbon in centralised power plants, including huge step up for offshore wind to reach 43GW.

The SO was less clear on the likely evolution of heating, with scenarios varying from a huge expansion in heat pumps, to a switch to use hydrogen in the existing gas network. It seems likely that gas use will remain in the mix, but it falls under all the scenarios and includes limited decentralisation, such as injecting biogas into the local network.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “In several areas, National Grid is suggesting a rationale for going further and faster than either the Road to Zero transport strategy or the National Infrastructure Commission laid out in the last few days.

“According to Grid, 70% of homes ought to be at EPC Class C insulation standards by 2030 – currently we’re under 30%. Half of electric vehicle chargers should be smart by 2024. And shale gas development works against, not for, achieving carbon targets. And under all scenarios, there’s a significant build-out of small-scale distributed renewable generation – something that currently, government policy is working against.

“So there are some key milestones here that ministers could usefully be internalising as they develop new policies to get back on track for the 2025 and 2030 carbon targets, for which currently, largely through inaction in the transport and housing sectors, government is off track.”

 

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