Future Energy Scenarios: National Grid says Net Zero depends on major societal change

National Grid ESO has made a fundamental change to its annual Future Energy Scenarios, for the first time assuming the UK will reach its legally-binding Net Zero target (in most scenarios). Instead of setting out scenarios for varying levels and speed of decarbonisation, the electricity system operator has centred them around varying levels of societal change, because it says all the Net Zero scenarios require major societal change.

The System Operator’s scenarios are intended to set out how the system might look in future, given known uncertainties. Up to now its scenarios have represented a range of decarbonisation levels, but with the Net Zero target in place that has changed. Now two scenarios meet that target, one exceeds it, and just one fails to meet the target.

Leading the Way exceeds the target. Itpushes assumptions in different areas of decarbonisation to the earliest credible dates and engaged consumers who respond to the need for change, have highly efficient homes and participate in smart energy services. Hydrogen – all produced by electrolysis using renewable energy -  is used to decarbonise challenging areas.

Consumer Transformation meets the targetwith major changes for the consumer, such as switching from gas boilers to heat pumps and using electric vehicles. The system has high peak electricity demands managed with flexible technologies including storage, demand side response and smart energy management.

System Transformation meets the target withless disruption for consumers. Changes will be more on the supply side, for example hydrogen will replace gas for heating.  Total hydrogen demand is high, and it is mostly produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage.

Steady Progression does not meet the 2050 target. Itsees less home insulation, natural gas still in use, particularly for domestic heating and slower take-up of electric vehicles, including continued reliance on diesel for heavy goods vehicles.

NGESO will use the scenarios to explore the evolution of the energy system.  See the full scenarios and feed back opinions to NGESO  here


Further reading

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