Electric vehicles steer UK towards a greener future

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Electric vehicles will play a major role in delivering a low carbon future – this is just one of many insights published in National Grid’s annual ‘Future Energy Scenarios’ report.

Through smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technologies, this year’s analysis reveals electric vehicles will be able to support the continued growth in renewables by storing excess generation and releasing it back onto the network when it is needed.

The report, which provides an insight into how we could be using energy in the future and where it could come from, suggests electricity demand is expected to grow significantly by 2050, driven by increased electrification of transport and heating. There could be as many as 11 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2030 and 36 million by 2040. The increase in electricity peak demand could be as little as 8GW in 2040 if consumers charge vehicles at off peak times and through vehicle-to-grid technology.

In three out of four scenarios, the report says gas continues to provide more energy than electricity by 2050 and remains the dominant form of heating well into the 2030s. However, its usage patterns will change, providing flexibility for both heat and electricity generation, complementing renewables.

Fintan Slye, Director, UK System Operator at National Grid, said “The continued growth in electric vehicles, a greater volume of low carbon generation and the advancement of storage technology, are among the major trends that have emerged from this year’s report.

“This means balancing energy supply and demand will become increasingly complex between now and 2050. The growth of decentralised generation, meeting carbon reduction targets for heat and the continued importance of gas furthers the need for a coordinated approach across the whole industry.”

Fintan added “The scenarios are not predictions, but they aim to be a catalyst for debate, decision making and change, and provide transparency to the wider industry. We are already operating in an exciting period of change – a trend which is set to continue, certainly up to 2050 and beyond.”

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said:

“As we move towards a low carbon economy, we want to position the UK as a leader in clean and efficient power for transport and heating. Earlier this week we announced significant investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including £30 million R&D investment in smart charging points.

“With demand for electricity expected to increase, gas has a key role to play in our energy mix. As part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we will continue to explore options for safe and secure domestic supplies of gas, such as hydrogen, biogas and natural gas from shale.”

In brief

  • Growth in electric vehicles (EVs) supports the continued trend towards more low carbon generation
  • Electricity demand to grow significantly by 2050, driven by increased electrification of transport and heating
  • Increase in electricity peak demand could be as little as 8GW in 2040 via EV smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technologies
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