Policy Impacts

Pathways to a more sustainable future

Posted on 25 July 2019
By Ben Spry
Ben Spry
Head of Risk Management

Ben manages the operational delivery of our risk management services, including the award-winning Optimisation Desk and its new suite of Demand Side Response products.

Over the past few months, we’ve dedicated a lot of coverage to how businesses and the energy sector can support the UK’s new net zero carbon goal by 2050.

And there is reason to be optimistic we can achieve this.

Via a rapid programme of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation, the face of UK generation is changing.

The rise of the prosumer

Consumers are also fast developing into ‘prosumers’ to assist with energy balancing services. For example, via demand side response activity to help the management of both national and local energy supply and demand.

National Grid has already signaled its intention to operate a zero carbon energy system by 2025.

And in its recent Future Energy Scenarios report, it’s outlined what it believes the UK needs to do to achieve net zero by 2050.

Immediate action required

According to its analysis, National Grid claims that meeting this goal will require “immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas”.

In particular, “action on electrification, energy efficiency and carbon capture” will be needed.

It estimates 37 million tonnes of CO2 will need to be removed from the atmosphere by 2050. Residual emissions will then be offset by negative emissions from biomass power generation paired with carbon capture and storage.

Hydrogen set to play a role

Interestingly, it sees hydrogen playing a key role in our energy system, with the gas system needing to be transformed to accommodate hydrogen, and existing gas appliances and boilers made ‘hydrogen-ready’ by 2050. (See our recent blog, The role of hydrogen in a clean energy future.)

Energy efficiency is also key.

National Grid claims that to meet our 2050 target, homes will need to use at least one third less energy for heating than today. This will require more than 23 million homes to install new low-carbon heating solutions, including at least 2.5 million domestic heat pumps.

Improving business energy efficiency

For businesses, improving efficiency is equally important, with the industrial and commercial sector consuming around 60% of the UK’s electricity and 25% gas.

Adopting new low-carbon technologies is also seen as key, particularly in energy-intensive sectors such as steel, chemicals, cement and glass manufacture.

National Grid estimates there will be more than 35 million electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads by 2050.

Using EVs for renewable storage

But as well as increasing demand for electricity, EVs could provide vital energy storage.

Using smart charging, National Grid estimates that around 75% of EVs could enable the storage of roughly one fifth of the UK’s solar generation for when this energy is needed.

However, managing this will require a huge amount of organisation. To support the process, National Grid believes that more than 2.8 trillion data points will be collected in 2050 to better understand where EVs are charging on the electricity system.

(For more on EVs, see our recent blog.

So lots of potential changes to come, including opportunities for large consumers to become part of the solution.

If you’d like to understand how your business could contribute to our net zero future, speak to our experts at Energy HQ. You can contact them on 0800 193 6866 or send an email to EnergyHQ@npower.com.


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