Net zero possible ahead of deadline; tech innovation will help

As the National Grid’s ESO releases an optimistic outlook for achieving net zero ahead of 2050, SSE reveals new technology that can help get there.

 

The ESO’s latest look into the energy sector’s crystal ball – Future Energy Scenarios – paints a relatively positive picture about the UK’s ability to achieve carbon net-zero by the target date of 2050 and potentially ahead of time if significant changes are put in place with almost immediate effect.

 

The big four

The four scenarios (the latter three achieving target) are based on both the speed of decarbonisation and the level of change in societal behaviour. They are:

  • Steady progression (least ambitious):  slowest decarbonisation, minimal behaviour change and no decarbonisation in head.
  • System transformation (fairly ambitious):  Hydrogen for heating, limited consumer behaviour change, lower energy efficiency and supply-side flexibility.
  • Consumer transformation (more ambitious): Electrified heating, consumer willingness to change behaviour, high energy efficiency, demand side flexibility.
  • Leading the way (most ambitious):  Fastest decarbonisation, significant lifestyle changes, mixed hydrogen and electric heating.

 

Along with the scenarios, the ESO also added four key messages in order that the 2050 target is achieved:

  1. Immediate action is needed across technology and policy as well as fully engaged consumers and society as a whole.
  2. Hydrogen and carbon capture must be deployed.
  3. Energy supply and demand economics require a fundamental shift, including investment incentives for flexibility and zero carbon generation.
  4. Open data and digitalisation is critical, not least to help navigate increased complexity at lost consumer cost.

In the clearly illustrated and laid-out report, the Operator offers a glimpse of dramatic change at its most ambitious. This includes at 75% drop in total energy demand from the road transport sector, with the clock running from 2019. A similar drop in average domestic home consumption is also required, involving collaboration between housebuilders, central and local government and individual homeowners to invest in smart technologies and significant retrofits.

More importantly, according the ESO, achieving any of the three net zero positive scenarios will require “immediate” government action on key energy policies.

 

Scottish steps to zero

Around the same time as the ESO was publishing its scenarios for the future, Scottish and Southern Energy Enterprise’s Stephen Stead was trumpeting the DNO’s latest technology to help move the needle further towards net zero. 

In a Current+ blog, the company’s Director of Strategy and Digital Services stated: “Real time control of local energy generation and consumption is already playing a vital role in decarbonising our economy. However, to support greater decarbonisation, these systems need to do more.”

He continued: “Matching intermittent generation and load is only part of the problem. With electrification of heat and transport, working around available grid capacity will be equally important for any organisation struggling to decarbonise, especially if it wants to avoid significant reinforcement costs.”

Stead turned to SSE’s Energy-as-a-Service platform as the answer to the challenges of controlling assets, trading output across multiple markets and generating “advanced trading intelligence” to optimise those assets.

EaaS has been designed, according to Stead, to allow SSE to: “partner with its clients, not only in the supply of power, but also in the deployment and funding of low carbon assets and energy efficiency measures as a combined energy service.

“On a wider scale, the control that sits at the core of this Energy-as-a-Service model enables towns and cities to adopt a whole systems approach to energy.”

In line with the ESO’s forecasting, Stead calls for buy-in from towns and cities to become ‘smart’ in their approach to, and use of, energy. This includes monitoring and application of data for their own benefit and to share with third parties.