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Electric vehicles could hike UK power demand 18 GW by 2050: Grid


Bullish EV scenario 'would challenge the system'

Consumer engagement key to managing change

Gas demand down across all scenarios

London — The growth of electric vehicles in the UK has the potential to increase peak electricity demand by 3.5 GW by 2030 and 18 GW by 2050, National Grid says in its latest Future Energy Scenarios analysis Thursday.

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Without smart charging technology the 2030 figure could be as high as 8 GW, the transmission system operator says. Peak UK demand today is around 60 GW.

The analysis sees a dramatic rise in electric vehicles under a Consumer Power scenario, with sales expected to be more than 90% of all cars by 2050.

EV numbers are projected to reach 1 million by the early 2020s, rising to as many as 9 million by 2030.

Electricity demand would increase, driven initially by EVs and later on by heat demand as the pace picks up to decarbonize heat.

An 18 GW increase in peak demand exists in the National Grid's Consumer Power scenario where the world is relatively wealthy and market-driven.

Consumers would charge their vehicles at their own convenience, during peak hours, ignoring electricity tariffs which are cheaper to use during off-peak times.

Such an outcome, resulting in annual demand of 46 TWh by 2050 (about 11% of national demand), would challenge system, generation and network capability, National Grid says.

"If not managed, peak time electricity demand in a prosperous economy could grow by almost 1 GW per year post 2030," it says.

This is in contrast to Grid's Two Degrees scenario that points to a more modest rise in electricity demand even though it accounts for more electric vehicles.

In this world environmental sustainability is the top priority, with shared driverless vehicles potentially making up 50% of EVs. With high consumer engagement, the sharing of vehicles and off peak charging patterns, demand may only rise by 6 GW by 2050, National Grid said.


The analysis includes four scenarios:

Two Degrees -- a world where environmental sustainability is a top priority;
Slow Progression -- a world focused on long-term environmental strategy;
Consumer Power -- a world which is relatively wealthy and market driven;
and Steady State -- a world focused on security of supply and short-term thinking.


Electricity peak demand could be as high as 85 GW in 2050 compared with 60 GW today, driven higher by EVs, heat pumps and increased air conditioning, the report shows.

Such an outcome would see summer peaks matching winter peaks towards the end of the scenario period.

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

While rising electricity demand is a theme in all four scenarios, natural gas, which today provides more than double the energy annually of electricity, undergoes varying degrees of decline.

Gas infrastructure is aging at a time when a more flexible system is required, Grid notes. "It will need to be maintained or adapted, and it is likely that some upstream entry and further storage facilities will close over the scenario period," the report says.

In Steady State and Slow Progression scenarios, the margin of gas supply over demand declines to the point where new capacity is needed in the early 2020s, it says.

To meet the UK's 2050 target to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels, meanwhile, "space heating needs to be decarbonized, quickly", it said.

"Gas will continue to play an important role in this transition and beyond with new technologies and the potential use of hydrogen," the report says.

Nevertheless, gas demand falls in all scenarios driven primarily by a decrease in gas-fired power generation.

There is, however, a wide range of outcomes for gas demand depending largely on the success or otherwise of carbonizing heat, and of introducing gas/gas-derived hydrogen into the transport sector.

Under Two Degrees, incentives drive the uptake of residential heat pumps, with 23 million installed by 2050. Slow Progression sees just six million installed over the period, while under Steady State and Consumer Power, gas boilers are retained in the vast majority of domestic properties with very little uptake of electric heat technologies.


In UK electricity supply the scenarios vary widely, with 14.5 GW of new nuclear build completed by 2035 under Two Degrees, compared to 3.3 GW in Steady State.

Between these extremes, the other two scenarios foresee smoother nuclear build profiles post-2040, with the assumption that small modular reactors will have developed sufficiently to be built.

while the overall amount of grid-connected gas plant falls in all scenarios except Steady State, between now and 2040 around half the existing CCGT fleet closes, and a significant new build program takes place.

Under Steady State, 12 GW of new transmission-connected CCGT capacity is added to 2025, rising to 15 GW by 2030. Under Consumer power the figures are 7 GW and 8 GW.

The figures are lower under Two Degrees, due to strong renewables growth supported by increased interconnection to provide flexibility (13 new links added to 2035 under Two Degrees vs only five in Steady State).

Growth of solar is highest under Consumer Power, with installed capacity of 44 GW by 2050 almost four times today's level. Two Degrees is not far behind with 38 GW solar installed by 2050.

Under Two Degrees, the UK's renewable generation capacity of 34 GW in 2016 could increase to as much as 110 GW in 2050.

Under Consumer Power, distributed generation of 26 GW in 2016 could increase to 93 GW in 2050.


In gas supply, UK needs for imported gas in 2050 range from 51% in Consumer Power to 93% in Slow Progression.

Under Two Degrees, where gas demand falls heavily, there is little incentive to maximize production from the UK Continental Shelf and no support for shale gas. Biomethane and bio-substitute natural gas, however, feature strongly in this scenario.

Here annual gas supply falls from 80 Bcm to under 40 Bcm between now and 2050, with UKCS exhausted by 2048, while Norwegian gas imports decline to 12 Bcm/year and green gas supply rises to 6 Bcm/year. Import dependency is high at over 80%.

Under Consumer Power, with high gas demand, policy is focused on encouraging UKCS and shale development, reducing import dependency.

Here gas demand declines to just below 60 Bcm/year, only 20% lower than now, with 32 Bcm/year of shale gas production from 2031 and UKCS just about still producing in 2050. There is barely any green gas production.

--Henry Edwardes-Evans,
--Edited by Jonathan Dart,