What Future Energy Scenarios 2019 means for business

As society strives towards the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it is imperative that businesses take immediate action if that goal is to come to fruition. Here Kayte O’Neill, Head of Strategy and Regulation at the Electricity System Operator, discusses what the findings of the 2019 Future Energy Scenarios report mean for businesses and industry.

Industrial and commercial businesses currently account for roughly 25 per cent of all gas used in Great Britain and about 60 per cent of electricity. Most of the demand comes from heating and lighting buildings as well as running industrial processes. The industrial and commercial sector is also currently responsible for about 30 per cent of total UK greenhouse emissions.

Therefore, it is imperative that businesses lead the way in the decarbonisation and decentralisation of energy if the UK is to meet the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The 2019 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report from National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) comprehensively outlines several credible energy scenarios, including a pathway for the UK to meet its ambition of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. If that goal is to be reached, then it requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas.

Heat decarbonisation

Heat decarbonisation pathways can be uncertain and vary from one region to another. However, there are clear, urgent no regret actions to be taken that are common across all scenarios.

Businesses can take immediate steps to decarbonise heat, such as improving the thermal efficiency of buildings, raising the efficiency standards of appliances and working to increase the adoption of heat pumps.

Decentralisation of energy

Decentralising energy creates closer links between sources of energy supply and demand via local networks. Electric vehicles (EVs) have a key role to play in the decentralisation of energy in the future, and as such they are a focus area in the 2019 FES report. One way of using EVs to decentralise energy is by adopting vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.

V2G technology allows electric vehicle batteries to supply power to, or take it from, the electricity network. This gives the potential to help balance the electricity system at times of high demand or generation and provide operability services to network operators. This process may be managed by an aggregator, who would likely have large portfolios of vehicles contracted to deliver this capability.

Fundamentally, this technology offers three key benefits for business. The first is the ability to be in control of one’s own energy supply, allowing for greater efficiency and control. The second is the financial benefit that can come from charging vehicles during off-peak electricity time and sending this power back to the grid when demand is high. Thirdly, V2G technology can actively support the decarbonisation of electricity which in turn lowers the carbon footprint of the business.

Digitalisation of systems

Adopting a whole system view across electricity, gas, heat and transport systems is vital to transforming the energy sector into one which is sustainable. Widespread digitalisation and data sharing are fundamental to harnessing the interactions between these key systems, which we have outlined in FES 2019.

The number of interactions between gas and electricity networks will increase compared to current levels, with gas-fired generation providing more flexibility and the creation of new interfaces from the development of hybrid heat systems. Therefore, digitalisation is needed to provide visibility and enable optimisation of the entire energy system. This needs to be done in a way that enables data to be shared between decision makers across the different interdependent systems such as gas, electricity and transport.

As businesses take more control over their own energy supply, they will inevitably by more conscious of the interactions across the different sections. As such, having an increased level or transparency between the different systems will help to facilitate this.

While the UK’s goal of operating its energy supply with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is an ambitious target, it is achievable. However, it requires immediate action from both industry and policymakers to make it a reality.

To read more about the Future Energy Scenarios 2019 and to find out more about how the energy landscape is changing, visit the National Grid ESO website.