The future of gas-fired generation

In recent years, Great Britain has seen rapid growth in renewable electricity sources like wind and solar. Despite this, gas-fired power generation still provided approximately 42% of electricity demand in 2016. As we continue our journey towards a decarbonised energy future, gas-fired power stations alongside other balancing mechanisms will be increasingly expected to meet the variability associated with renewables. This change in requirement creates operational uncertainty that we need to quantify, to understand the risk it poses.

The shift towards a decentralised and decarbonised energy future is evident in all our Future Energy Scenarios. However, the pace of this transition is unclear.

Consequently, the future level and behaviour of gas-fired generation is not certain. This is visible in the FES, which forecasts a wide range for annual gas-fired generation demand out to 2035.

A graph showing the annual demand of gas-fired generation

With the continued importance of gas-fired power stations, and high levels of uncertainty around their future operation, it is vital that we have a strong understanding of how electricity generation may change both in the short and long-term, and the impact this could have on gas-fired generation.

This will help to ensure we have the right rules, tools and assets in place to safely provide our customers with optionality in how they use the gas network.

How will gas-fired power station behaviour change within-day and day-to-day?

As electricity generation becomes more weather dependent, we anticipate that gas-fired generation demand will become more variable within-day, and day-to-day.

To understand what impacts this could have on our gas network, we are forecasting how individual gas-fired power station behaviour could change out to 2027, for each Future Energy Scenario.

Using our network analysis software (SIMONE), we can use these forecasts to assess the capability of our system to operate safely, and provide gas-fired power stations with the optionality they need to run effectively for the whole energy system.

To help aid us in our analysis, we would like to know:

  • How you think future electricity generation will affect gas network operation in the future
  • How gas-fired generation uncertainty is impacting investment decisions
  • How you see gas-fired generation within-day demand changing in the short and long-term

The impacts of decentralisation

Decentralised gas-fired generation represents the level of power generation that is connected to the electricity network, but not the gas transmission system.

Depending on the energy pathway taken, we could see a significant increase in this form of gas-fired generation, which could lead to a significant change in our demand environment.

We believe this is an area we need to study further, to better understand the potential impacts this could have on our planning and operational processes.

A graph of gas demand scenarios 2017

GFOP 2018 – Future gas-fired generation demand

On 26 March 2018, we are looking to publish a document that aims to:

  • describe gas-fired generation demand and behaviour in 2017
  • explain how we currently manage gas-fired generation demand uncertainty
  • illustrate how daily gas-fired generation demand and behaviour could change in the next 10 years
  • Highlight the potential operability challenges changing gas-fired generation demand could cause

Please download our document, challenge our findings, tell us how you think electricity generation will change in the future, how this will impact gas-fired generation operation, and provide evidence for other areas we should look.

About the authors

Adeolu Adesanya is a Lead Economics Analyst in the Gas Network Development team in Warwick, where Imran Abdulla is Senior Gas Network Strategy Analyst.