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Future Energy Scenarios & Peak Demand

November 27, 2020

By Paul Homewood




In our discussions of the grid capacity needed for EVs, I mentioned reading that the National Grid said the extra required would be tiny, maybe 5 GW or so.

We can check, because last summer they published this year’s Future Energy Scenarios (FES).

I did a full analysis here. 

The FES does not say how much extra capacity we need for EVs on their own, but it does tell us how much we would need in a Net Zero scenario in total, ie including heat pumps and other electrification as well as cars. In essence, individual parts of the plan cannot be quantified separately as they are all an integral part of the whole.

There are four scenarios, but the one that is relevant is Consumer Transformation. System Transformation involves maximising hydrogen, and the other two speak for themselves:



And this is the key chart, showing that peak demand would rise from around 60GW to 96GW:



Clearly this is a lot more than the small increase indicated by the National Grid. It is true of course that heat pumps and other things will increase demand as well, but they all come as part of a parcel.

For instance, although it is claimed that most EV charging will take place at night, much of the surplus power at that time is already being offset by demand side response, battery storage, thermal storage, electrolysis and so on.

But even then, the assumptions used are so rose coloured as to be meaningless fantasy. Indeed, the name “Consumer Transformation” gives the game away – it assumes that human nature will change.

Let’s examine the two major areas, homes and cars.

The FES expects homeowners to upgrade to the most ambitious insulation, and only use appliances when demand is low.




And not only will people have to fork out for expensive heat pumps and insulation, they will also be expected to install thermal storage as well, so as to avoid using power at peak demand periods:



This is all utterly fanciful. Can you really expect the public to spend thousands of pounds and alter their lifestyles, just so as the National Grid can get out of the mess it has created for itself? (And, yes, that also includes turning down the thermostat!)


Then we come to electric cars.

The first assumption which sticks out like a sore thumb is that the number of cars will drop to 27.9m, from the current level of 33m.

Of the 27.9m, autonomous cars will account for 6.3m, so private ownership will drop to 21.6M:




In contrast, the Committee on Climate Change assumed there will be 46m cars in their Net Zero Plan, (which incidentally calculated peak demand would be 150GW by 2050).

The FES assumes that there will be many less second cars, and that millions will happily walk or take the bus instead. Will all of this happen, just because people want to save the planet? Human nature tells us not.

Over the years, people in Britain have become steadily richer, and unsurprisingly they want to spend that money.

Fifty years ago or so, many bought their first cars. Later on, families could afford two cars, go on foreign holidays, buy bigger houses and purchase all sorts of goods which not only consume energy but need it in manufacture.

Are they expected to give up all of these trappings of the good life, just to keep their carbon footprint down?


On top of that, EV owners are expected to meekly let the grid decide when the cars can be charged, and even take electricity back when the grid is in short supply:



This I have to say is cloud cuckoo land for the vast majority, who will continue to plug in when they get home, and unplug before the grid can get their hands on their stored power the next morning.

The only thing which might influence them is if the price of power during the day and early evening is set at a punitive level, which would not be politically acceptable.

In any event, as I have already noted, charging EVs at night will not make a whole lot of difference anyway, as the potential surplus of power at night is small.

According to FES, if smart charging is used, it only cuts EV peak demand by about 10GW. V2G (vehicle to grid) might potentially reduce peak demand by 5GW, in the unlikely event people leave their cars plugged during the day, but the shortfall would need to be made good that same night, which simply adds to demand then.


The FES reckons road transport will need about 100 TWh a year. Even if this was spread out absolutely perfectly throughout the year, it would equate to 12GW. This could just about be absorbed at night, but daytime peak demand would also rise by this much.

When you factor in the CCC’s projection of 46m cars, that 12GW would nearly double.




In any case, such a perfect spread of charging is an impossibility. Charging is bound to be a much less regular and unpredictable occurrence.

As such, the CCC’s estimate of 150GW peak demand is much more realistic than the FES vision of what might happen in a perfect world. 

Finally let’s look at how peak demand progressively rises:




Consumer Transformation naturally has the highest demand. System Transformation assumes a massive rollout of hydrogen, both for heating and transport. Leading The Way assumes everybody cuts their energy consumption to a minimum, and Steady Progression says we decarbonise very slowly.

The FES assumes that petrol/diesel cars will be banned from 2035 in the Consumer scenario. As we know that has now been brought forward. We could therefore find that peak demand could hit 80GW by the mid 2030s.

Bearing in mind that we would need more capacity to allow for de-rating, that would require at least 100GW of firm, dispatchable capacity by then. Once all of the coal power stations have closed, we will be lucky to have half that much.

But more on that tomorrow.

  1. cajwbroomhill permalink
    November 27, 2020 7:12 pm

    Presumably all the difficulties and dangers risked with hydrogen will have been sorted out before System Transformation?
    So that great leap forward may take some time if ever to be rolled out!

    • November 27, 2020 8:08 pm

      Sounds a it too much like Mao Te Tung to me!

      • Ariane permalink
        November 28, 2020 2:06 pm

        But not like Deng Zhao Ping.

  2. norman paul weldon permalink
    November 27, 2020 7:29 pm

    If V2G happens, will this not shorten the battery life – charge, discharge and charge again would surely be 3 times the usage of the battery as opposed to 1 charge? Yet more batteries to be produced at cost to both the customer and environment.

    • James Broadhurst permalink
      November 29, 2020 11:51 am

      In the section Consumer View is this statement

      The level of energy efficiency is different in the net zero scenarios. It is higher in the more electrified scenarios, which leads to overall energy demand being lower than today and also lower than in System Transformation, where hydrogen dominates. This is mainly down to the efficiency of electric vehicles and heat pumps (both natural gas and hydrogen boilers are less efficient than heat pumps). However, whilst overall energy demand is less in these scenarios, the level of electricity demand is much higher than today’s.

      The idea that lower energy demand (through higher efficiency) leads to much higher electricity demand contravenes the 1st and probably all 3 Laws of Thermodynamics?

      I’m also at a loss how autonomous vehicles will be more efficient. What is the justification for such a remark?

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 27, 2020 7:36 pm

    When talking H2, is it not the case that they will use natural gas – currently used to generate electricity – to create H2 which will then be used to generate electricity?

    • A Man of No Rank permalink
      November 28, 2020 8:20 pm

      Isn’t it odd Harry – the steam/methane reforming reaction does get to hydrogen:
      CH4 + 1/2O2 + H2O —> CO2 + 3H2
      Forget that this is a costly 2 step reaction requiring heat, pressure and catalysts because 1 molecule of methane produces 1 molecule of nasty CO2. This being exactly the same ratio of molecules for when methane is used as a fuel in our houses.
      Then hydrogen, when combusted to provide energy, produces lots of H2O and this Water Vapour is another greenhouse gas.
      Perhaps someone from the Select Committee can enlighten us because the Hydrogen economy looks like very expensive mistake to me. And while they are at it they can also explain why we are teaching Science in all of our schools when no-one in authority ever uses it!

  4. November 27, 2020 8:08 pm

    Have they let the cat out of the bag in respect of how they really see the future?

    Are we sure they really thought about it before selecting the image above as the cover of the report? Living in a tent with next to know light shining
    on you is a potential result of this wilful asininity but not one maybe they should be actively promoting.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    November 27, 2020 8:11 pm

    All this talk about “thermal storage”.

    How many homes have the physical free space to accommodate it?

    1. Few owners have fond memories of the large & largely-uncontrollable concrete blocks known as ‘Night storage heaters’. They might have used ‘cheap(er)’ off-peak electricity for being charged up; but when they needed boosting during cold evenings, their owners were hammered with very expensive peak pricing.

    2. I’ve noticed lots of adverts / PR puff-pieces of low-rated heat-pumps showing massive (luke-warm) water storage cylinders. Few homes with compact gas boilers have *floor* space to accommodate one. [They can’t usually be wall-mounted, they’re too damn heavy.]

    • Bloke back down the pub permalink
      November 28, 2020 12:21 pm

      Thermal storage doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. Current pricing is not cheap, though hopefully that would come down once the use was more widespread.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 28, 2020 8:52 pm

        Also probably a bit pernickety in operation. It needs rather precise control of inputs if you don’t want to be relying on expensive electric heating (I downloaded the manual). But an interesting concept nevertheless. Doubtless a must have for the couldn’t care less what it costs green virtue signaller.

  6. Mack permalink
    November 27, 2020 8:25 pm

    The National Grid, in their Future Energy Scenarios paper, use the word ‘assume’ a lot in relation to their projections/predictions/ouija forecasts of future energy use. As a youngster, in a former profession, I was always told to rely on facts and observational evidence and not to assume anything. To assume, as my former boss once told me, has a tendency to make ‘an ass out of u and me’. Obviously, the NG faithful who authored this paper might have missed that life lesson when they were growing up.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      November 27, 2020 8:55 pm

      I prefer the ‘Under Siege 2’ version:

      “Assumption is the mother of all **** ups.”

      • dave permalink
        November 28, 2020 9:56 am

        “Assumption is the mother of all ****ups.”

        Especially in wars, such as is – apparently – the war on carbon.

        Young hot-heads in Britain who volunteered early in WW1, ASSUMED it would “all be over by Christmas.” They worried that they would they would never be shot at!

        Hitler, when planning the invasion of the Soviet Union, ASSUMED that all the German Army had to do was “to kick in the door.”

        The Shah of Khwarzm ASSUMED that, when he hung the ambassadors of Genghis Khan, the said Mongol sweetie would not come in person with 200,000 soldiers, and kick his ass.

        It is well said that “no plan survives the first shot.”

  7. JimW permalink
    November 27, 2020 9:12 pm

    They ‘assume’ that the population will have decreased substantially and be poorer.
    It is the only way their assumptions could possible happen.

  8. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 27, 2020 9:47 pm

    La, la la, we’re not listening (1st December BEIS Select Committee -Net zero and UN climate summits):

    The usual suspects:

    Claire O’Neill
    Managing Director, Climate & Energy at World Business Council for Sustainable Development

    Pete Betts
    Associate Fellow at Chatham House, and Professor of Practise at Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE

    Farhana Yamin
    Chief Executive Officer at Track 0, Vice-Chair at Climate Vulnerable Forum Expert Advisory Group, and Senior Advisor at SYSTEMIQ

    Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE
    Director at Cambridge Zero, University of Cambridge, and Reader of Environmental Data Science at University of Cambridge

    Dr Jennifer Allan
    Lecturer in International Relations at University of Cardiff

    And we will ignore if you have anything sensible to write (until December 4th for submissions):


    What has been the impact of past and current policies for low carbon heat, and what lessons can be learnt, including examples from devolved administrations and international comparators?
    What key policies, priorities and timelines should be included in the Government’s forthcoming ‘Buildings and Heat Strategy’ to ensure that the UK is on track to deliver Net Zero? What are the most urgent decisions and actions that need to be taken over the course of this Parliament (by 2024)?
    Which technologies are the most viable to deliver the decarbonisation of heating, and what would be the most appropriate mix of technologies across the UK?
    What are the barriers to scaling up low carbon heating technologies? What is needed to overcome these barriers?
    How can the costs of decarbonising heat be distributed fairly across consumers, taxpayers, business and government, taking account of the fuel poor and communities affected by the transition? What is the impact of the existing distribution of environmental levies across electricity, gas and fuel bills on drivers for switching to low carbon heating, and should this distribution be reviewed?
    What incentives and regulatory measures should be employed to encourage and ensure households take up low carbon heat, and how will these need to vary for different household types?
    What action is required to ensure that households are engaged, informed, supported and protected during the transition to low carbon heat, including measures to minimise disruption in homes and to maintain consumer choice?
    Where should responsibility lie for the governance, coordination and delivery of low carbon heating? What will these organisations need in order to deliver such responsibilities?

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      November 28, 2020 8:37 am

      The whole thing is utterly circular in terms of “experts”. Yiu can only be an expert of you agree with what the other experts already say. If you don’t you care anti-science and so can be ignored. It’s the argument faiths and religions use.

    • Ariane permalink
      November 28, 2020 2:47 pm

      Re ‘evidence’ I decided to send in evidence that we don’t need to decarbonise anything. My submission:

      There is no need to decarbonise the UK’s domestic or industrial, agricultural or transport sectors. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions do not cause global warming or climate change. Natural carbon dioxide is a trace gas amounting to 0.04% of the atmosphere while anthropogenic CO2 was 36 billion metric tons in 2017 (US EIA) and the Earth’s average atmosphere is about 5.5 quadrillion metric tons (Encyclopaedia Britannica.) There just isn’t enough carbon dioxide anywhere to increase temperatures. Your entire decarbonisation policy ruins the economy at individual, family, community and national levels. Green policies are mostly fascist and our Parliamentarians are stupid to have been beguiled by the ‘save the planet’ propaganda which originated in the intention of wealthy people to deprive the poor of cheap energy, to prevent development in underdeveloped economies and to reduce population growth.

  9. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    November 28, 2020 5:04 am

    From the USA:
    I don’t get around much but the idea of a “night storage heater” seems as antiquated as the grandparent’s large stone fireplace and a few buckets of water setting nearby. These things do get warm and keep one from freezing. Modern ceramics might improve the idea; I don’t know or care. The old folks cut ice off of lakes and used sawdust as insulation to save if for summer cooling. You could try that.
    I’ll suggest taking all the money directed toward “storage” [drop the heater part because storage is not a producer) and building a few nuclear power plants.

    I have seen a few houses built to use sunlight and good design to lower the heating/cooling needs. This works with newly constructed homes, but doesn’t seem to be what your Future Energy Scenarios (FES) are looking for.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 28, 2020 12:32 pm

      Indeed! many “old” ideas were born out of neccessity and/or lack of resourses for most people but they worked!
      Maybe we should go back to working with the natural world rather than against it. In the UK we are very lucky to have many really old properties open to the public. I always marvel how people overcame the technical challenges of their time.

  10. November 28, 2020 8:13 am

    As long as you are going for NET zero cluld you fund forest preservation NGOs in the third world and take the allowed emission reduction credits?

  11. Phoenix44 permalink
    November 28, 2020 8:35 am

    If everyone optimised demand then it’s obvious there will be a hugely reduced difference between peak and trough. But that means there will be much less of a price differential. As you start down that route and prices narrow, fewer and fewer people will bother. Thus it won’t happen. This is basic economics. Nobody is going to go out at 2am to plug their car in because its tenths of a penny cheaper.

    As for perhaps 5 million people no longer having a car…How are all those journeys that number of cars represents going to be accommodated then?

    • Penda100 permalink
      November 28, 2020 4:19 pm

      Or (as mentioned above) 5 million fewer people.

  12. Alan Keith permalink
    November 28, 2020 9:27 am

    My wife Tricia has come up with a brilliant idea to help the transformation. It’s the GYMBUS. An electric bus fitted with exercise bikes and treadmills feeding power into the battery while the passengers keep themselves fit. What’s not to like?!!

    • dave permalink
      November 28, 2020 10:09 am

      The absurdist, black-mood, 1969 film, The Bed Sitting Room, set in a post-apocalyptic Britain showed us all what it will be like. I seem to remember Dudley Moore mounted on a stationary bicycle, providing enough electricity for a light-bulb.

  13. November 28, 2020 10:32 am

    How long can EV manufacturers bear the recall losses?
    At the end of September, BMW initiated a recall in the United States of 10 different BMW and Mini plug-in hybrid models because of a risk of fire caused by debris that may have gotten into battery cells during manufacturing. Then, in early October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into reports of apparently spontaneous battery fires in Chevrolet Bolt EVs. GM says it is cooperating with the investigation.
    A few days later, Hyundai announced that it was recalling 6,700 Kona Electric SUVs in the United States, among about 75,000 of that model to be recalled worldwide, after it had received numerous reports of vehicles catching fire while parked.

    Will I be correct in January?

  14. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    November 28, 2020 11:03 am

    Don’t forget all the electric heating we will also be having……

    • November 28, 2020 11:32 am

      Or not having if there isn’t enough electricity to go round.

  15. StephenP permalink
    November 28, 2020 11:18 am

    Where hydrogen is touted as the answer to transport and heating needs, I would like to know what burning hydrogen in air (80% nitrogen) produces in the way of oxides of nitrogen,
    Engines for example use high pressure and temperature, i.e. a mini Haber process
    In addition EVs still produce dust (particulates) from brakes and tyres..

    • Joe Public permalink
      November 28, 2020 2:12 pm

      See “Logistics of Domestic Hydrogen Conversion” prepared for BEIS:

      Section4.2 Gas Combustion” pages 20 & 21:

      “Nitrogen oxide (NOx) formation: NOx is formed in high-temperature combustion as nitrogen in the air is oxidised. It is a known air pollutant and studies have shown that it can have an adverse impact on health for both short and long-term exposure [26] [27]. NOx production is a legitimate concern for hydrogen appliances as hydrogen is likely to burn hotter than natural gas but until testing has been undertaken it is difficult to predict the precise implications. Ultimately sufficient ventilation will be required to eject NOx and there may also be implications for gas detection”

      Click to access hydrogen-logistics.pdf

      • StephenP permalink
        November 28, 2020 2:55 pm

        Thanks Joe for the link. I hope all those proposing the use of hydrogen have read it.
        I get the feeling that most of these people think that all that needs to be done is to replace the natural gas in the supply with hydrogen.
        It is interesting that there seems to be little data on the formation of oxides of nitrogen. More work needs to be done, otherwise “lessons will have to be learned”!
        As regards the NOx production from ICEs, has any work been done? Otherwise there could be similar problems as attributed to diesel engines.

    • Vic Hanby permalink
      November 28, 2020 7:58 pm

      A hydrogen flame will produce more NOx than a comparable natural gas one. Nobody mentions this and nobody up there cares, as we all have been told, NOx comes from diesel vehicles. So that’s been taken care of then.

  16. In the Real World permalink
    November 28, 2020 11:21 am

    The ” assumed ” estimates for EV charging are as usual , total rubbish .
    There are something like over 5 million small vans on the road , and the number is increasing with the trend for ” home deliveries ” . Most of these will need full charging up every night during the week .
    So without allowing for private cars , that would need about an extra 40GWh generation capacity .

    Even if private mileage drops and not many cars plug in at nights , there is no way that EVs can work without a massive increase in power stations .

  17. Bloke back down the pub permalink
    November 28, 2020 12:16 pm

    ‘In any event, as I have already noted, charging EVs at night will not make a whole lot of difference anyway, as the potential surplus of power at night is small.’
    As the current UK weather is showing, renewables can sometimes produce diddly squat at night, particularly at times of the year when demand is at its highest.

  18. Vanessa permalink
    November 28, 2020 12:57 pm

    To insulate all buildings sounds wonderful but our old buildings do not lend themselves to being insulated. I am sure we all remember the disaster of insulating cavity wall homes !!! It led to constant damp and bad air for the home-owners. I think some had to rip it out. Bricks need circulating air – are we going to blow-up every brick-built building in the UK ? I don’t think so. We need proper joined-up thinking on this lunacy. I am sure the planet can look after itself – we are just “ants” on its surface !

  19. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 28, 2020 1:15 pm

    I did some research on the members of the Select Committee. As might be expected, relevant expertise virtually nonexistent. The Chairman, Darren Jones, is a green fanatic and is married to Lucy Symons-Jones, who now works for this outfit

    who are lobbyists based a stone’s throw from BEIS. It is interesting to trawl around the site to see who their members are, and what they have been working on, including plans for decarbonisation of heat. Is Lucy another Carrie?

  20. Coeur de Lion permalink
    November 28, 2020 2:03 pm

    It’s because all the CCC people are upper middle class and live in a leafy suburb with a drive, a garage, a potential charging point. They cannot conceive of a block of flats where incumbents all have cars which give them a where do I park problem every evening.
    I’m afraid that a couple of hindenburgs will kybosh hydrogen. Heavens, it’s bad enough to see the hole in the terrace caused by a gas explosion. So stupid it burns.

  21. November 28, 2020 3:11 pm

    We just need to walk more to power a tiny turbine . Somehow this doesn’t seem to have caught on even though we are being encouraged to walk and get more exercise. Or possibly it doesn’t work?

  22. Sobaken permalink
    November 28, 2020 4:05 pm

    FES 2019 actually had a more realistic view on EV charging. The plots on pp 89-90 look like a good approximation of how EVs are most likely to be charged. The problem is that the numbers are too low, it adds up to about 50 TWh annually with 33 million vehicles, while if you take that a car uses 0.2 KWh/km and drives an average 14000 km/year, the demand should be 92 TWh. Adding those numbers for residential, work, and public charging, finding a peak in that summed total demand, multiplying that by 92/50=1.84 and by 33m EVs, you get almost 27 GW of peak demand (or 10.5 GW average) for charging.
    If nearly all heating were to be electrified, it would probably add somewhere around 40 GW of additional peak demand in winter. At least that’s the number you arrive to if you take BEIS monthly statistics for domestic/commercial gas usage and calculate how much heat pump capacity would be necessary to provide the same heating (assuming COP ~ 3). That of course ignores that on some colder days in that month the demand will be greater than monthly average, and that the demand is uneven across the day and realistically heat pumps won’t be run at constant power all day, so the actual number is likely going to be higher. Unless that improved insulation reduces the heating requirements.
    So a total peak demand of up to 120 GW is not impossible.

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