London — Natural gas continues to provide more of the UK's energy than electricity to 2050 under three out of four scenarios published by transmission system operator National Grid Thursday.
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Gas is set to remain the dominant form of heating well into the 2030s, according to National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios report, but its use patterns will change, providing flexibility for heat and electricity generation, complementing renewables.
Meanwhile electricity demand grows in all scenarios, notably from the 2030s onwards when electrification of transport really gets going and then the electrification of heat begins. Electricity peak demands mirror this increase, although smart charging could limit peak demand growth to 8 GW, the report says.
Current annual energy demand for gas is 810 TWh and for electricity 297 TWh.
Under Grid's Consumer Evolution scenario, gas demand declines to 548 TWh to 2050, while electricity demand climbs to 392 TWh.
Under the Steady Progression scenario, gas demand falls to 638 TWh and electricity rises to 386 TWh to 2050.
National Grid notes that its scenarios are not predictions. They reflect the possible supply and demand of gas and electricity in future, and the implications of this for the energy industry.
Generation capacity could increase from 103 GW today to between 189 GW and 268 GW by 2050, with the Grid's more decarbonized scenarios requiring the highest capacities. "Up to 65% of generation could be local by 2050," the report says.
High levels of intermittent and inflexible generation would require high levels of new flexibility, and there may be some periods of oversupply, it says. Interconnectors and electricity storage would play a key role in easing this, but new ways to maintain system balance "will have to be found."
Electricity demand is expected to grow significantly by 2050, driven by increased electrification of transport and heating.
"There could be as many as 11 million electric vehicles by 2030 and 36 million by 2040," the report says.
Through smart charging technologies, consumers charging vehicles at off peak times and through vehicle-to-grid technology, the increase in electricity peak demand could be as little as 8 GW in 2040.
In scenarios looking at the decarbonizing of heat, the Grid says that up to 60% of homes could be using heat pumps by 2050, while green gas and smart technology for heating could help suppress future electricity peak demand.
"Hydrogen could heat one third of homes by 2050. This would require coordinated action to develop city and regional hydrogen networks," it says.
Both options would need other forms of heating such as low carbon district heating, hybrid heat pumps and micro combined heat and power, it says.
"The continued growth in electric vehicles, a greater volume of low carbon generation and the advancement of storage technology, are among the major trends that have emerged from this year's report," said National Grid's UK System Operator Director Fintan Slye.
"This means balancing energy supply and demand will become increasingly complex between now and 2050. The growth of decentralised generation, meeting carbon reduction targets for heat and the continued importance of gas furthers the need for a co-ordinated approach across the whole industry."
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