by Duncan Rimmer, Energy Scenarios Manager, National Grid
Summary: Wide range of generation sources. Moderate demand reduction. Considerable bioenergy.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing mankind and will consequently require big solutions. These solutions will be based around five main pillars; demand efficiency (supported by energy efficiency measures and smart technology), renewables, nuclear, carbon capture & storage (CCS) and flexible interconnected networks. While embedded generation has an important role to play, the scale of the challenge requires affordable solutions and therefore economies of scale and deliverability will be key. Our 2050 pathway, although based around these pillars, incorporates contributions from most sectors but with none pushed to the maximum level. Hence it can be described as a balanced pathway with no silver bullet. This will enable the UK to meet its energy policy objectives of sustainability and security/diversity of supply in the most cost effective way whilst accommodating the daily and seasonal variations in energy use by consumers.
To achieve the environmental targets for GHG emissions, not only will electricity need to be low carbon, but the heat and transport sectors will also need to move away from unabated fossil fuels. In particular, this is most prevalent for road transport with the switch to initially hybrids then plug in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles. For heat the situation is more complex because the annual heat demand profile is much steeper (i.e. seasonal) than for non-heating demand. Consequently, the implications of moving towards full electrification of heat would be the requirement for significant network reinforcement, large numbers of additional power stations (operating with low load factors) as well as new long duration storage technologies for heat and electricity. Hence we believe a more cost effective way to achieve the targets and maintain levels of comfort would be to have a more balanced pathway that electrifies significant amounts of heat, particularly baseload heat, but with seasonal heating over the winter being provided initially from natural gas and then renewable biomethane as it becomes more plentiful. Unfortunately, we are unable to replicate this pathway within the Calculator as the non-electric heating options that use gas utilise CHP rather than gas boilers which result in higher emissions (for the same level of heat delivered) and the need for greater action elsewhere over and above what would be required e.g. land use for energy crops.
To summarise, our 2050 Pathway decarbonises electricity using similar contributions from renewable, nuclear and CCS generation supported by flexible interconnected networks across Europe; for transport we assume some modal change, most cars and vans are electrified with HGVs shifting towards hybridisation. For heat we push energy efficiency with significant electrification; however, for older properties a dual fuel/hybrid path is taken that provides greater flexibility and is more cost effective.