A combination of carbon capture technology and continued reliance on renewable forms of energy generation could result in the UK’s electricity grid becoming carbon neutral by 2033, according to the latest Future Energy Scenarios report from National Grid.
With investment in renewable energy generation growing, National Grid expects at least 3GW of new wind power capacity and 1.4GW of solar generation every year from now until 2050 as a result of the upsurge in projects.
It is also anticipated that the Electrical Vehicle (EV) market, set for a boom year in 2020 until Covid-19 put the brakes on, will play a big role moving forward with the potential for as many as 30 million EVs effectively acting as smart-charging “batteries” to help balance the electricity grid. For this to be realised, there needs to be a serious upgrade in vehicle to grid networks
Meanwhile, homeowners will play their part by consuming up to a third less electricity after switching from gas boiler central heating systems to heat pumps fitted with thermal batteries.
Mark Herring, head of strategy at National Grid ESO, said: “Across all scenarios, we see growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity. There is widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too.
“Although these are not firm predictions, we’ve talked to over 600 industry experts to build this insight and it’s clear while net-zero is achievable, there are significant changes ahead,” he added.
We take a look at how the coronavirus is affecting the Electric Vehicle (EV) market
Until the coronavirus took hold, 2020 was shaping up to be a big year for sales of EVs and the development of EV charging infrastructure in the UK. But like a lot of best-laid plans, this is no longer the case and the number of charge points available to drivers of EVs remains at 340. These can be located via the website, Zap-Map.
In the 12 months prior to the pandemic, EV sales had jumped by 144% but they are now set to take a nosedive. Rather than move into the fast lane of the car world, sales of EVs are forecast to plummet by as much as 43% in 2020.
Nissan has taken the decision to halt production of EVs, aware that there won’t be the demand for them given the restrictions on travel and the insecure financial position many people find themselves in.
Tesla, the world’s highest-profile EV manufacturer, had targeted production of half-a-million EVs this year but due to the manufacturing slowdown and economic concerns, that looks highly ambitious.
However, there are still some EV schemes going ahead amidst the crisis, with Siemens announcing at the end of March that they had just completed the UK’s first whole street of lamp post to EV charge point conversions.
The first EV-only motorway service station is also set to be unveiled in Braintree, Essex this summer. When fully operational, the site will have 24 rapid chargers, a supermarket, and an EV education centre.
While the number of car journeys has dramatically reduced since the lockdown period was enforced, key workers still need to get to and from their place of employment and, as a result, Pod Point is reportedly continuing with home charger installations for people operating in the frontline of this crisis who rely on EVs as their mode of transport.
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The Coronavirus is seeming to have a spiralling effect, causing major disruption to people’s lives in one way or another. It is also having multiple side-effects on the energy industry and the environment, including very turbulent market pricing.
So far, we have seen the following direct impacts on multiple suppliers/companies we work with on a regular basis, some of these include:
A number of suppliers are now only taking emergency phone calls, meaning regular tasks cannot be undertaken.
Suppliers are either not quoting which could result in out of contract rates (OCR) or taking up to 15 working days to quote or not taking on any new clients at all
Western Power Distribution (WPD) has stopped all contracting other than emergency work only, with many Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) set to follow suit.
If businesses are unable to pay bills, and this, in turn, creates a poor credit rating. Energy suppliers will charge a bond as a result which can disrupt cash flows with the knock-on effects potentially felt over the next few years.
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Carbon Zero was a major talking point, however, the conversation has gone quiet as short-term thinking has taken over. Personal income and wealth are the primary concerns for people at the moment.
Sustainability on hold?
Many companies had outlined their plans to Carbon Zero targets prior to the pandemic took a grip, which included green energy, renewable energy sources and Electric Vehicles (EV) and installation.
However, since the Coronavirus began it is now estimated that EV battery demand could be downgraded by 4% and solar installations are likely to be 16% lower than previously forecast. It is also expected that 7 in 10 businesses are planning on partially or fully pausing any sustainability announcements.
Many of us are currently working from home or not able to work at all, and that has affected how we communicate with one another. All key green policy meetings have also been postponed and it will be a minimum of six weeks before any UN climate meetings are held in person.
With 16.8 billion people working from home, domestic energy bills could look to increase by £5.2million – which could put a lot of strain on energy providers as well as individuals/family out of work and with no income.
So how does the rest of the world fare?
China has just announced for the first time since going into isolation that they will be relaxing their regulations slightly and allowing individuals involved in the manufacturing sector to go back to work. This could, therefore, cause problems for the rest of the world in terms of energy usage. As their energy output increases and our work decreases, how will this leave us? Will China have the energy they require? Prior to this, China had seen a 25% decrease in its emissions.
Italy has been one of the country’s worst affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, with energy demand on the 18th March recording at being down by 7.45% week-on-week.
Will this ever end?
We all know drastic measures are needed to combat the pandemic, one of which is the cancellation of flights. On the 24th March, we saw 15,650 flights cancelled – the highest number this year.
Another consideration is the number of people – 4.2 billion at the last count – who do not have access to proper sanitation and are unable to follow World Health Organisation guidelines as a result.
What do we expect to see going forward?
In terms of CO2, we could see a similar scenario to the 2008 recession when there was a 6% increase in year-on-year emissions due to businesses and policymakers making up for a loss of productivity. Much depends on the longevity of the lockdown.
Obviously this could have a detrimental impact on businesses attempts to hit their carbon zero targets and the government’s target of being Carbon neutral by 2050.
Green issues were discussed in the election like never before, amidst a climate of fear around the future of the planet.
The main parties all stated they want to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by at least 2050, if not before. While progress on this front has been positive, the UK is still nowhere near meeting its target and the Committee on Climate Change has said radical changes need to happen in the next few years.
Planning for the future
It is hoped that by 2025 that the UK will have a plan in place to replace gas as a source of domestic heating with all cars and vans on the road being electric by the early 2030s.
The withdrawal bill, paving the way for Brexit on the 31st January 2020, is due to have its second commons reading this Friday. In February, a huge reshuffle will occur once the UK has left the EU with an expected budget statement in March.
Once Brexit has taken place, the UK will be released from any renewable energy targets set by the EU. The availability of funding from EU institutions may impact the deployment of innovation or capital-intensive projects.
There are several EU initiatives that promote investment of energy infrastructure and they currently represent an important source of funding for UK energy projects. Therefore, Brexit could leave the UK short of funding or having to look for other means to support renewable infrastructure projects.
Although the UK would still be bound by national and international decarbonisation obligations, it is expected low carbon energy development will carry on forming part of the government’s climate change policy.
In terms of pricing, UK energy prices would be affected if the EU imposes export tariffs on gas flowing to the UK.
The UK’s Electric Car (EV) market is constantly growing and the growing demand for charging capacity will be met by dedicated charger companies, utilities and the government, rather than car makers themselves.
Research shows that very few of the 60 plus car brands operating in the UK are putting funds towards charging infrastructure. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders admitted: “We consider it is up to the private operators and the government.”
The boss of the PSA group, which owns Peugeot, has declared he does not see charging networks as a core business activity, even with this potentially affecting the sales of EVs due to concern over the lack of charging opportunities – as well as the EVs lack of range.
Ford buck the trend
However, Ford is an exception and has opened 350kW fast-charge sites in the UK as a plan to mirror the Tesla supercharger network.
Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini and Porsche are all part of Ionity, founded by Ford. Ionity has three sites that are operational with a fourth being built.
In 2012, Nissan became co-funder of the Ecotricity 50kW charging network, which has now got up to 300 charging points. This marked the limit of its public charging investment, though.
If the government aims to expand EV use, with the aim of sales going up 50%-75% by 2030, a significant expansion of the charging network is needed.