04 August 2017

The UK's Future Energy Scenarios; what are today's top 10 markers?

Connected Energy reviews the FES report for July and looks at what it means for the UK energy landscape.

National Grid has released its Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report for July 2017. FES reports seek to present transparent, holistic paths through the uncertain energy landscape; they balance both economic prosperity and green ambitions.

National Grid’s goal is to: ‘Represent transparent, holistic paths through the uncertain energy landscape to help Government, our customers and other stakeholders make informed decisions. These scenarios are not forecasts, instead they show a range of plausible and credible pathways for the future of energy, from today out to 2050.”

But what are the primary concerns National Grid foresees? We’ve reviewed the FES Report and pulled out ten of the big scenarios they identify:

1: Distributed and renewable generation

High levels of distributed/renewable generation are now a reality. The total amount of renewable generating capacity was 34GW in 2016; 34% of total installed capacity.

As traditional sources of energy are replaced in this way, demand becomes more dynamic and complex to manage. Flexible, responsive balancing products and services will be required across electricity and gas systems.

2: New business models

New tech and evolving business models are rapidly transforming energy. Market and regulatory arrangements must adapt swiftly to support a flexible energy system with an increasing number of participants.

3: Storage and DSR

Today sees rapid developments in battery storage and demand side response. Electricity storage capacity totalled 4GW in 2016 and this could grow rapidly to almost 6GW by 2020. Energy is becoming more diverse, moving away from a small number of large companies to a wide range of smaller providers and innovators.

4: Rising UK demand

Electricity demand has the potential to increase significantly, plus the shape of demand will change. Electricity peaks could be as high as 85GW in 2050, compared to around 60GW today.

This will require a coordinated approach across the whole system, covering investment in smart technologies, transmission and distribution infrastructure and commercial approaches such as consumer behaviour change.

5: Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are projected to reach around 1 million by the early 2020s; there could be as many as 9 million by 2030. The Report says that without smart charging, this could result in an additional 8GW of demand at peak times.

6: Evolving weather patterns

If weather patterns continue to change, air conditioning could raise peak demand in summer to a similar level as winter towards the end of the scenario period.

7: Transmission worries

Away from peak demand periods, the increase in distributed generation, in particular solar, could lead to periods of very low demand on the transmission system.

8: Aging gas infrastructure

Gas infrastructure is aging and demands on it are changing, requiring a more flexible system. It will need to be maintained or adapted, and it is likely that some upstream entry and storage facilities will close over the scenario period.

9: Heat decarbonisation and demand

In order to meet the 2050 carbon reduction target, decarbonisation of heat needs to pick up pace now. Gas will continue to play an important role in this transition; so will new technologies like the potential use of hydrogen.

10: Gas is running out

Traditional sources of gas are declining. Remember, gas supplies more than twice as much energy annually as electricity today, and could still provide more energy than electricity in 2050.

There are plenty of options for providing a continuing supply of gas, from the world market and from novel sources within the UK. But some of these may require innovative approaches to connecting and transporting gas.

Interested in finding out more about energy resilience and future-proofing your own path through a complex energy landscape? Drop us a line…