National Grid focuses on decentralisation for energy future

National Grid’s 2018 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) Report highlighted decentralisation as a key element of decarbonisation to 2050.

This year’s FES presented four new scenarios for the UK’s energy future and, in particular decarbonisation to meet targets to 2050.  One scenario in particular, Community Renewables, forecast rapid progress on decarbonisation helped by a more decentralised energy system. 

In this scenario, total generation capacity is forecast to reach 268GW by 2050, of which 65% would be delivered through distributed and microgeneration energy.  These figures are significantly greater than the least effective scenario – Steady Progression – which forecasts an increase in capacity of just 189GW delivered through a more centralised system.

The potential for 65% decentralised generation also presents a dramatic increase on the 27% of local generation currently supplied within the total 103GW output.

In his executive summary introduction, Fintan Slye - National Grid’s Director, UK System Operator – stated: “…it’s impossible to accurately forecast a single energy future over the long term. However, creating a range of credible futures allows us to continue supporting the development of an energy system that’s robust against different outcomes.”

In terms of annual energy demand, the FES forecast was a reduction across all four scenarios, although peak demand for electricity is likely to increase.  According to Slye: “There will be a significant increase in electricity infrastructure, from new renewable generation to electric vehicle charging networks. And the decarbonisation of heating will be challenging, with multiple ways to achieve it – requiring both electricity and different types of gas.”

In solving the heating challenge, one scenario in particular – Two Degrees – saw hydrogen as a key energy source to meet this need.

The electric vehicle sector is also forecast to play a significant role in decarbonisation, with National Grid significantly increasing its forecast of the number of EVs on the UK’s roads to 36m by 2040.  However, this could boost peak demand to 12.7GW by 2050.