National Grid sees major boost for solar, electric vehicles and batteries

The UK could adopt solar, electric vehicles and batteries much faster than expected just a year ago, according to the National Grid.

DECC Minister Amber Rudd visits UK Power Networks ‘Big Battery’, in Leighton Buzzard (Image: DECC)

DECC Minister Amber Rudd visits UK Power Networks ‘Big Battery’, in Leighton Buzzard (Image: DECC)

The new outlook is part of a rapidly changing landscape for the UK energy system, laid out in the 2016 Future Energy Scenarios. Marcus Stewart, National Grid’s head of energy insights, says in a foreword to the report: “We are in the midst of an energy revolution.”

Carbon Brief runs through the key changes in the outlook compared to last year.

Energy revolution

The idea that the UK energy world is in the midst of a period of rapid and fundamental change has been gaining traction since the start of the year. The usually conservative National Grid is the latest of several industry and government groups to use the language of “revolution”.

In February, a report for industry group Energy UK talked of a coming “revolution”, similar to those that have overtaken telecomms and banking. Then, in March, the National Infrastructure Commission said embracing a “smart power revolution” could save the UK £8bn a year by 2030.

The National Grid report and press release includes Stewart’s quote on energy revolution, as well as saying that “electricity supply is going through a period of unparalleled transformation”. However, the report fails to spell out exactly how much the National Grid’s scenarios have shifted since last year.

They now see up to 39 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed by 2035, up from around 12GW today and up 7GW from last year’s maximum expectation for 2035 of 32GW. Two years ago, National Grid expected as little as 8GW and no more than 17GW of solar in 2030. Now, its minimum is 15GW.

The raised expectations for the number of electric vehicles on the road in 2035 is equally dramatic, ranging from a 23% to a 120% increase on last year’s report, with the range depending on the wider economic and policy environment. In total, there could be as many as 8.3m electric vehicles in 2035, the report says, making up nearly a quarter of all cars on the road.

This year’s scenarios also include, for the first time, a significant future role for battery electric storage. Last year’s outlook merely noted that storage was important and said new capacity could be unlocked with technological improvements, regulatory change and subsidies.

As of this year, “the value proposition has improved for storage”, says a National Grid document discussing stakeholder feedback received during its scenario development process.

This improvement is set to continue. The Future Energy Scenarios report says the cost of lithium ion batteries could halve by around 2019, and halve again by the early 2020s. It says:

Commercial and regulatory changes which are expected in the next 12 months will be key to the successful large-scale deployment of new storage technologies.

Read more: Carbon Brief

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