Gas would virtually disappear from the UK’s energy mix in two scenarios to meet legally-binding commitments to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In the two scenarios (Consumer Transformation, and Leading the Way) put forward by National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) in its annual Future Energy Scenarios (FES), electricity from renewables meets most of the UK’s need for heat and electricity. A massive increase in offshore wind provides hydrogen to replace natural gas for peak home heating and for industrial or transport use where electricity is not suitable.
Both scenarios require large-scale replacement of gas boilers, either with electric heating (such as heat pumps) or with hybrid boilers that supplement electric heating with hydrogen at peak times.
The scenarios could mean the end of the UK’s gas-fired generation fleet. These plant currently compete with renewables and nuclear to supply power, but the increasing volumes of zero marginal cost power available from renewables have pushed gas generation down the merit order. Their value is increasingly in providing system stability and flexibility services, where NGESO is looking for zero-carbon alternatives including deamd side response, and storage such as batteries.
The scenarios also raise important questions over the cost of maintaining and operating the UK’s gas network. Power generation represents over a quarter of the gas transported across the high-pressure national gas transmission network.
An NGESO scenario that meets Net Zero commitments while continuing to use gas (System Transformation) would see most of it used in steam reforming processes to create hydrogen, which would replace the natural gas currently used for domestic heating. That requires demonstration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale in this decade, NGESO said.
NGESO produced one scenario – Steady Progression – where significant gas remains in the system without being transformed into hydrogen. In that scenario the UK would fail to reach its mandated Net Zero target because home heating would not be decarbonised.
See more about the Future Energy Scenarios here