Presenting the future world of energy

The world of energy is rapidly transforming, driven by new technologies and the inexorable move to a low carbon society.

The world of energy is rapidly transforming, driven by new technologies and the inexorable move to a low carbon society.

That was the underlying message at the launch of the 2018 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) by National Grid’s System Operator (SO). Each year the SO produces the FES, summarising its analysis of trends in the energy market and turning them into potential scenarios for the next 30 years and beyond. It considers how much gas and electricity the UK might need and where it will come from, as well as the impact of changes on the industry and its customers.

FES is widely acknowledged as the industry-leading publication on future energy trends. To include the best possible data for its scenarios, the SO consults widely; this year’s report includes feedback from no fewer than 430 different organisations, each adding its input in to the in-depth analysis produced by National Grid’s own experts.

Many of those organisations were represented among the 400 delegates who attended the FES launch at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on 12 July. They were joined by guest speakers Baroness Worthington, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe, and Ged Davis, Executive Chair of the World Energy Scenarios. The event was also followed by 200 people via a live web-stream.

Creating a range of credible futures allows us to continue supporting the development of a robust energy system.

– Fintan Slye, Director of UK System Operator

Delegates heard that this year’s FES identified four key messages:

  1. We are entering a new world of energy. The expected growth of low carbon and decentralised generation means the electricity system will need to change.
  2. Electric vehicle growth goes hand-in-hand with electricity decarbonisation. Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid can actively support the decarbonisation of electricity.
  3. Action on heat is essential and needs to gather pace in the 2020s to meet carbon reduction targets. A mix of low carbon heating solutions and better thermal efficiency of buildings is needed.
  4. Gas will play a role in providing reliable, flexible energy supplies for the foreseeable future. New technologies and sources of low carbon gas can decarbonise the whole energy sector.

These messages underpinned the four scenarios at the heart of this year’s FES, which are considered in terms of two key criteria: the speed of decarbonisation and the level of decentralisation of the energy world.

In two of the scenarios, Community Renewables and Two Degrees, the UK’s 2050 carbon emission reduction target is reached by different paths; in the other two, Consumer Evolution and Steady Progression, the UK falls short.

Launching FES, Fintan Slye, Director of UK System Operator at National Grid, told delegates: “These scenarios, which stimulate debate and help inform the decisions that will shape our energy future, have never been more important.

“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.”

Baroness Worthington praised National Grid for its “professionalism in keeping the lights on and keeping us healthy and prosperous” but said there was more to do to make sure the UK ended its reliance on carbon. Ged Davis provided the wider, global context for the energy scenarios.

We’ll be publishing other articles, each focusing on one of the key topics from FES. Keep a look-out over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, all FES documents and presentations from the launch, plus a recording of the live streaming, are available at on the FES website.