Posted: 21 July 2017
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FES 2017: A day of insights

Nearly 400 stakeholders from across the energy industry gathered in London to debate National Grid’s 2017 Future Energy Scenarios. The conversation ranged from the rise of electric vehicles and the future of gas to the need for greater flexibility in the energy system. The overriding theme of the day was one of unrelenting change.

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FES 2017: A day of insights

FES 2017: A day of insights

Roisin Quinn, Head of SO Strategy, during the FES Q&A session.

Across all scenarios except Steady State there is dramatic growth projected in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.

National Grid 2017 Future Energy Scenarios.

Insight:

Our reliance on imported gas by 2050 ranges from 51% in Consumer Power through to 93% in Slow Progression.

Source: National Grid 2017 Future Energy Scenarios.

This year’s Future Energy Scenarios (FES) were launched before a packed audience at the QEII Centre in central London. The spotlight was firmly on how Great Britain can achieve a secure, affordable and sustainable energy future.

Rapid evolution

Opening the conference, Director of the UK System Operator Cordi O’Hara reflected on the transformation under way in how we produce and consume power. New technologies, the drive to reduce carbon emissions and growth of distributed energy were at the heart of this radical shift, she said. As System Operator, National Grid is stepping up to work with the industry and facilitate this change to get the best outcome for consumers. Cordi explained how FES and our other Future of Energy publications continue to provide transparency and guidance to the industry to help manage the uncertainty we face.

Cordi also pointed to the publication of the Future of Gas Progress Report which was launched at the FES conference. The engagement programme began last year to develop insights on the future role of gas and the gas transmission system in GB. It combines the wealth of information that already exists on this topic with our System Operator expertise and input from our customers and stakeholders, to provide an overall view of the critical role gas will play in decarbonising energy markets.

Key messages from FES

Head of Energy Insights Marcus Stewart spoke about the four key messages from this year’s FES, starting with the pace of change. An energy system with high levels of distributed and renewable generation is now a reality, he said. This growth is expected to continue which means that the energy system is also becoming more complex.

The second message focused on the opportunity for the industry as a whole to adapt. New technologies and evolving business models are rapidly transforming the energy sector. Market and regulatory arrangements need to keep pace with this change as the industry welcomes many new participants.

Thirdly, the consumer is at the heart of the energy revolution. The way people interact with, use and generate energy will have a profound impact on the future energy system. The growth in electric vehicles is an example of how the shape of demand is changing. Marcus highlighted the need for whole system thinking and investment in smart technologies to achieve best value for consumers.

Finally, gas remains the backbone of our energy system, providing heat to 22 million homes and businesses. Across all scenarios gas retains a significant role as Britain continues the transition to a low-carbon future. The way the gas system is used is also changing, with customers seeking more agility and responsiveness.

Scenarios explore different futures

The four 2017 scenarios show different pathways of how Great Britain’s energy future might look by 2030 or 2050. Consumer Power, Two Degrees, Slow Progression and Steady State contrast varying levels of green ambition and prosperity, and explore what that means for the energy system.

Energy Supply and Demand Manager Jan Mather gave the audience a whistlestop tour of what the FES analysis revealed for electricity and gas demand and supply. Although there was wide variation between the scenarios, some common themes emerged.

In transport, for example, across all scenarios except Steady State there is dramatic growth projected in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. By 2030, under Steady State the number of EVs would rise to 1.9 million. The most ambitious scenario, Two Degrees, has that figure at 9.3 million by the same date.

All scenarios also point to continued growth in decentralised and renewable generation; it is only the pace and extent of this change that differs. As a result, requirements for system flexibility are increasing as the amount of intermittent and decentralised generation grows.

Turning to gas, all four scenarios state that there is enough gas available worldwide to meet GB demand throughout the scenario period. Our reliance on imported gas by 2050 ranges from 51% in Consumer Power through to 93% in Slow Progression. In the Two Degrees scenario, biomethane and bio-substitute natural gas (bioSNG) contribute around 13% of total supply by 2050.

Guest speaker insight

Two guest speakers offered their own unique perspectives on the future of energy. Dr Alastair Martin, founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Flexitricity, spoke about his experiences in the flexible generation marketplace. He urged the industry to learn the lessons from politicians’ woes: “If the last year in politics has taught us anything, it’s this: how often do we speak about customers in the energy industry, or even people?”

Citing the falling load factors on thermal plant and efforts to decarbonise the industry, he added: “We’ve walked into a few lampposts, but we’re going in the right direction.” Alastair also highlighted the need to find ways to sell demand response in an ad hoc way on the day it’s needed.

Justin Laney, Commercial Vehicle Fleet Manager at John Lewis Partnership, is responsible for a fleet of 3,200 commercial vehicles and 1,500 cars. He talked about the company’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and emissions affecting air quality, including the introduction of biomethane as an alternative to diesel power for heavy lorries.

Justin outlined some of the challenges of this work, including selecting the optimum technology, the availability of refuelling stations, the range of the vehicles and ensuring that the business case was robust.

Interactive sessions

The FES conference was streamed live for the first time, opening up the debate to a much wider online audience. A morning Q&A session involving a panel of experts explored some of the most pressing challenges facing the energy sector. Subjects included the projected levels of battery storage across the scenarios, the role of hydrogen in the energy mix and the emphasis on new nuclear energy.

The audience was also able to participate in a series of live polls to compare views on the day with those expressed in the FES analysis.

Three breakout sessions examined some of the main topics in detail, with live polling enabling delegates to design their own scenario in three distinct areas. The sessions covered ‘Flexibility on a Changing Electricity System’, ‘Growth of Low Carbon Transport’ and ‘The Heating Challenge’.

We’ll have lots more coverage of FES on Connecting in the coming days. In the meantime, to find out more and access all the relevant documents, visit our dedicated Future Energy Scenarios website.

FES 2017: The scenarios in depth