Future Energy Scenarios 2020

By Paul Homewood

The National Grid has just published its latest annual FES:

FES main report

As usual, there are four scenarios:

  • Consumer Transformation – basically high electrification
  • System Transformation – high hydrogen use
  • Steady Progression – business as usual
  • Leading The Way – first lemming over the cliff

In this post, I’ll look at Consumer Transformation:

This is the energy flow diagram:

Heating in homes is largely electrified, as is road transport. There is a small amount of hydrogen use, mainly from electrolysis using surplus wind power, most of which goes for shipping.

Electrical output doubles to 691 TWh in 2050, of which 481 TWh comes from wind and solar:

Demand peaks at 96 GW. Assuming de-rating to 85% (to allow for capacity not always being available), that would mean minimum dispatchable capacity of 113 GW. The figure of 96 GW, by the way, already assumes smart grids, storage, demand side response etc.

Yet dispatchable capacity built into their plan is only 33 GW, in addition to 25 GW of interconnector capacity, assuming of course that Europe has power spare to sell us:

Base demand for electricity, ie excluding for electrolysis and export, comes to 494 TWh, equating to 56 GW averaged across the year. Clearly we will need much more in winter. So potentially we will be short of guaranteed capacity throughout the year.

So how do they square the circle? By something called “Equivalent Firm Capacity”. This assumes that a minimum amount of generation will always be available from weather dependent renewables:


I would not even run a whelk stall on such wishful thinking, never mind the nations energy system! As I have shown on many occasions, there have been many times in the past when wind power has fallen well below these levels for long periods.

By 2050, it is assumed there will be a net export of electricity, amounting to 52 TWh. However, this is derived from imports of 60 TWh, and exports of 112 TWh.

In other words, there will be a surplus of 112 TWh, which may or may not be saleable, given that much of Europe is likely to have surplus wind power at the same time as us. Assuming a cost of £60/MWh, 112 TWh is worth £6.7bn, which is the potential amount it could cost in constraint payments if we can’t sell it. Who will end up standing this cost?

Nowhere does the FES document mention how much all of this will cost, nor the impracticalities. For instance, we are not told how the capacity of the nationwide distribution system will be doubled, what would be involved or the costs.

I realise that costs may not be in the National Grid’s remit, but one might have hoped they would point out to government the very real difficulties faced, regardless of what scenario is followed.

Instead, they have meekly told the government what it wanted to hear.



July 28, 2020 at 04:00PM