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Future Energy Scenarios 2020

July 28, 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:

 Image: National Grid. 

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.

  1. Curious George permalink
    July 28, 2020 10:31 pm

    How much did the production of this “research” cost?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      July 30, 2020 2:14 am

      Supposedly they consulted 600 experts. At £5k a pop that would be £3m, plus their own staff costs.

  2. Geoff B permalink
    July 28, 2020 10:34 pm

    When I worked, a fair few years ago, it was for an American company and they had a mantra….KNOW YOUR COSTS…it should apply to the insane “Climate Change Act”.

    Government are blindly following the net zero carbon with no idea how it is going to impact the costs to the ” man on the clapham Omnibus”, It is all going to end in some sort of public protests that will make recent events look trivial,

  3. Gamecock permalink
    July 28, 2020 10:36 pm

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

    A wise policy in a fascist state. Resistance is futile. Go along, and your competitors may be under capitalized, hence, fade away.

    Dupont and General Electric learned decades ago that resistance just gets you bloodied.

    Regulated, monopolistic electric utilities have guaranteed rates of return. They learned decades ago not to fight. You want Renewable Portfolio Standard? Fine. We still get our 10%, no matter how stupid you are.

  4. July 28, 2020 11:20 pm

    The only believable ‘scenario’ is the tent.

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    July 28, 2020 11:29 pm

    What tells the whole story here is the difference in load factors.
    Offshore poor, Onshore worse and Solar pathetic.

  6. July 29, 2020 12:24 am

    O/T the new daily smear job on Radio4 against skeptics
    This is the tweet from the shows producer

    #1 See who she thanks
    #2 See the tweets traffic in a country of 66 million people
    25 likes and zero replies

  7. July 29, 2020 12:25 am

    Wind in UK currently accounts for a tiny percentage of primary energy consumption:

    Carbon Brief emphasises the lowest energy use in at least half a century as if it was a laudable achievement.
    Is it seriously suggested that wind can provide the bulk of primary energy — industrial, commercial, residential, transport — replacing oil gas etc. by 2050⸮

  8. James Broadhurst permalink
    July 29, 2020 12:58 am

    Not that long ago most of the offshore turbines had to be lifted to expose the joint between the section above water and the section hammered into the sea bed because the mortar used to seal the joint failed. I wouldn’t bet the farm on them working reliably if I were NGrid.

  9. Phillip Bratby permalink
    July 29, 2020 6:41 am

    Of course none of the onshore, offshore and solar farms in existence today will be operating in 2050 (they will probably be left to rust away). There will have to be a continuous programme of replacement – nice work if you can get somebody else to pay for it.

    I wonder if it is a condition of employment in NG ESO that you must be a member of the Green Party and a supporter of XR.

  10. Hugh Sharman permalink
    July 29, 2020 8:01 am

    I have no reason to doubt Timera’s guestimate that 80 GW of European dispatchable capacity (coal, gas and nuclear) will shutter before 2030, causing most European systems into net power deficit. (posted by Paul in February). Those inter-connectors, on which Grid is counting, will be useless during a typical winter fortnight of high pressure, cold weather, covering the whole of NW Europe.

  11. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    July 29, 2020 8:30 am

    This is insanity. Time to buy a diesel genny.

  12. Thomas Carr permalink
    July 29, 2020 10:03 am

    Good contribution by I-am-not-a-robot. We run the risk of emulating other interest groups who only listen to what is going round in their own barrel and are not open to other points of view either because it reveals their closed minds or is a challenge to their own blind faith in renewables etc.
    Paul H must be pleased by the amount of expertise he has garnered/stimulated but is that as far as we have got. Who for instance writes to their MPs – admittedly a somewhat redundant course of action?
    How about a bit of coordination?
    Monthly tracking of the following and its publication in the FT , The Economist and the ‘heavy’ papers would improve the coherence of what we are saying . The present scatter gun approach is vary frustrating as I cannot easily recall the previous set of figures on the same subject.
    If anyone has the time and access to the figures I would like to know:-
    What is being paid to the windfarm operators for not taking their supply.
    What is the changing supply mix to the grid.
    The nights when windfarms and solar panels are useless
    What the interconnectors are sending to the UK
    What is the subsidy for wood chip burners and the cost of delivery to the UK.
    What would have been the cost to domestic consumers of electricity if the flakey green sources had not imposed the levy costs on the consumers.
    Finally , an impossible calculation: with the transfer of production out of the country what has been the reduction in industrial electricity consumption?

    • July 29, 2020 12:39 pm

      Thomas – the windfarm constraints payments are explained on the REF website with the actual figures available to download from the Wind Farm Constraints link on the left. However, as explained, there is a similar amount which is kept secret for “confidential” reasons. It’s a scandal. Windfarms in the large, remote, sparsely populated county of Sutherland have been paid more to switch off than those in the whole of England and Wales put together yet they continue to build more.

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      July 29, 2020 3:23 pm

      Thomas – trouble is, the numbers you want change by the minute, so your questions are unanswerable. goes some way to answering half of them.

      For example, right now wind and solar are producing about twice the power that nuclear is in the UK. By midnight nuclear might be producing 5 times as much as wind and solar. It won’t be because we’ve commissioned 45GW of new reactors today! Look at the forecast accuracy for yesterday/today to see how wildly inaccurate it can be:
      (15 min settlement periods, hence 48 periods/day starting at midnight)

      So tonight will likely be one of your useless days for renewables. When it’s useless, it’s useless so you have to have 100% back-up as I’m sure you know, but it seems the National Grid don’t. Yesterday though was a day when wind turned up with 7 to 9GW all day and even peaked usefully in the middle – so we didn’t burn quite so much gas yesterday but would have been stuffed if those gas plants weren’t there today.

      How do you present that in any way meaningful to an arts graduate journalist or politician?

  13. jack broughton permalink
    July 29, 2020 10:59 am

    I started to listen to this but could not take it. Apart from the dishonesty it was very boring. Only hardened “believers” (or, of course, very dedicated skeptics) would have listened to it.
    This is yet another example of the Biased Broadcasting Corps work. It has really lost all credibility on foreign policy, science and epidemiological reporting.

    I used to be a regular avid BBC listener, but now rarely switch it on: the TV form is even worse of course!

  14. July 29, 2020 10:59 am

    The last line of Paul’s summation is so agonisingly resonant, “What the Government wants to hear”. A mountain of lickspittles who have the answer given to them and are asked to make it palatable for the woke, BBC inspired, energy experts in the general public. A program of falsehoods. An evil brew which confounds reason and asks us to ignore what our experience endures. A conglomeration of high on the hog inner circle reporting to Caligula, who fear the loss of their positions if they do not report the answer that which they were asked to corroborate rather than question or analyse. This report could have been written by a ‘Guardian’ editor, shows no compromise, no doubt, no alternative, only the certainties that will derived if a uniform, narrow and intensely un-scientific program is not followed, Newton knocked off the shoulders of giants. The governments of this country have been so internecine in their political wars and neglectful in fire fights that now our progress as a perceptive and adventurous civilisation is under threat. So far are they stuffed behind the eight ball by their joint dilatory operation that we now find ourselves listening to soothsayers and new age proselytiser’s, wait for the coming of King Arthur and the mummy will make it better salvation.

  15. Vernon E permalink
    July 29, 2020 11:28 am

    Thomas Carr: I wrote to my (Conservative) MP to point out that the ludicrous claims by AEP and Dan Hannan that technology now under pilot scale building in Germany could lead us painlessly to a hydrogen based economy is nonsense. Here is some of his response (verbatim) “… be surprised how many people care about climate change ….. is one of the biggest issues concerning people…. having a green agenda doesn’t mean going backwards economically….hope we can invest in technology that creates jobs while improving the environment..”

    There’s no hope is there? We might as well give up. At least I’m old enough that I may not feel the worst impacts. And, by the way, a poll reported by Guido recently (which I also referred to in my contact) was clear that climate change is the lowest of the public concerns.

  16. Sobaken permalink
    July 29, 2020 12:31 pm

    There is absolutely no way this could work from an engineering perspective with only 40GW/200GWh of storage and 70GW of electrolysers (even if electrolysis was used for energy storage rather than marine/jet fuel production). You can take the historic numbers from Gridwatch, scale up all the demand and generation figures according to the projections from FES, and see for yourself. But there’s a clue to this puzzle in the FES itself, “societal change” gets 35 mentions throughout the report and “demand side response” another 47, plus they discuss ‘smart’ appliances at length. So I guess the idea is to keep a minimum baseload generation of nuclear and biomass to run the most essential services and keep the grid stable, and cut power and heat to everyone else whenever there’s no wind, by remotely turning off all the ‘smart’ stuff. Which I highly doubt is going to be acceptable to the public, so even the scenario that is banking on hydrogen production with CCS seems more plausible.

  17. ianprsy permalink
    July 29, 2020 12:48 pm

    And don’t forget that it’s all based on the assumption that CO2 is the problem.

    • Gas Geezer permalink
      July 30, 2020 12:07 am

      Nest , a state funded pension provider investing in state funded green projects .What’s not to like ?

  18. Douglas Brodie permalink
    July 29, 2020 6:17 pm

    Our national “fossil fuel dependency” is easily calculated from the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy. I have plotted this data from 2008 for the UK and the world.

    The UK data show that after a decade of Climate Change Act striving, we are still 79% dependent on fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) for our primary energy supply. What’s more, the graph shows that the falling trend has slowed markedly over the last five years. The electricity supply from UK flagship renewables wind and solar equated to just 3.5% of 2019 UK primary energy consumption (output based).

    The world data show that after a decade of forlorn UN IPCC exhortations, the world as a whole is still 84% dependent on fossil fuels. What’s more, the electricity supply from global wind and solar languished at just 1.3% of 2019 world primary energy consumption.

    This simple concept makes a mockery of the establishment’s Net Zero Emissions fantasy, which in reality means an unspinnable net zero fossil fuels. I have recently brought this to the attention of Boris Johnson and his cabinet (no response as yet). For details see

  19. Peter permalink
    July 29, 2020 7:40 pm

    Stewgreen – Thank you for drawing attention to this BBC initiative. It shows how low the Corporation has sunk. It must be getting desperate to keep the public in a constant state of alarm. The people who clearly contributed are a bit like getting Tory MPs who lost the whip at the last election to comment on the benefits of Brexit.

  20. August 2, 2020 3:02 am

    That’s an interesting picture of the dad and son in a tent that isn’t big enough for them and mom, too. I wonder where she is? Perhaps when she’s done peddling the generator, dad will go out to take his turn while mom reads to junior, or takes a much needed nap?

  21. Colin Megson permalink
    August 2, 2020 12:04 pm

    But what does 30GW of onshore wind mean for townies (lovers of majestic monuments to free, green energy) living in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London?

    How will major ports cope with 60 GW of offshore wind around the coastline?

    And will many people be affected by 42 GW of solar pv between the South Downs and High Weald AONB?

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