future energy scenarios

A Summary of the Future Energy Scenarios (FES) 2021

What are the Future Energy Scenarios?

The Future Energy Scenarios (FES) represent 4 different pathways for the future of our energy from now until 2050. The scenarios explore how we may use and generate energy in 4 separate ways, with each representing a range of potential outcomes.

What are the Future Energy Scenarios used for?

Used by the National Grid ESO and other energy network owners/operators, the FES are an important part of annual network planning and operability analysis.

FES also helps with policy development, informing investment decisions, and helping people understand how we might supply and consumer energy over time.

Why are the Future Energy Scenarios important?

The Government’s 2050 target of net zero is a goal that will require an energy system transformation all the while continuing to deliver reliability and value for consumers. There are multiple pathways to reach the net zero by 2050 target and each pathway is different. The FES sets out these pathways, considering how much energy we might need and where it will come from.

What are the 4 different pathways set out in FES 2021?

FES 2021 explores 4 different pathways which are:

  • Consumer transformation
  • System transformation
  • Leading the way
  • Steady progression

Consumer transformation

The consumer transformation pathway looks at the way in which we can reach net zero by 2050 by changing the way we use energy.

What does a typical consumer look like in the consumer transformation pathway?

The typical consumer will:

  • use an electric heat pump with a low temperature heating system,
  • use an electric vehicle,
  • have made changes to improve their home’s energy efficiency, and,
  • have most of their electricity demand smartly controlled to provide flexibility to the system.

What does the system look like in the consumer transformation pathway?

The system will have higher peak electricity demands managed with flexible technologies including energy storage, demand side response and smart energy management.

System transformation

The system transformation pathway looks at the way in which we can reach net zero by 2050 by changing the way we generate and supply energy.

What does a typical consumer look like in the system transformation pathway?

The typical consumer will:

  • use a hydrogen boiler with a mostly unchanged heating system,
  • use an electric or fuel cell vehicle,
  • will have fewer energy efficiency improvements to their home, and,
  • would be less likely to provide flexibility to the system.

What does the system look like in the system transformation pathway?

Total hydrogen demand is high, mostly produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage.

Leading the way

The leading the way pathway looks at the way in which we can reach net zero by 2050 by combining high consumer engagement with world-leading technology and investment.

In the leading the way scenario, homes would be retrofitted with more energy efficiency improvements, such as triple glazing and external wall insulation, to drive down energy demand.

What does a typical consumer look like in the leading the way pathway?

The typical consumer will:

  • be highly engaged in reducing and managing their own energy consumption.

What does the system look like in the leading the way pathway?

Hydrogen is used to decarbonise some of the most challenging areas such as some industrial processes, produced solely from electrolysis powered by renewable electricity.

Steady progression

The steady progression pathway does not reach net zero but instead represents a slow, reliable speed of decarbonisation.

This scenario looks at:

  • home insulation improving despite there still being a strong reliance on natural gas,
  • uptake of electric vehicles slowly growing, replacing petrol and diesel vehicles for domestic use, and,
  • slow decarbonisation of other vehicles with reliance on diesel for heavy goods vehicles.

What are the key messages from FES 2021?

FES 2021 details 4 key messages throughout the report which are:

  • Key message 1: Policy and delivery
  • Key message 2: Consumer and digitalisation
  • Key message 3: Markets and flexibility
  • Key message 4: Infrastructure and whole energy system

Below are some key points taken from each key message.

Key message 1: Policy and delivery

To maintain the momentum provided by the Energy White Paper, achieving net zero will require policies and accountabilities coupled with a focus on delivery.

To support action on delivery, the following policy decisions need to be made:

  • relative roles of electrification and hydrogen for residential heating,
  • level of support for energy efficiency measures,
  • timings for transitioning away from unabated gas, and,
  • extent to which natural gas is used in hydrogen production.

Key message 2: Consumer and digitalisation

Consumer behaviour is crucial to meet net zero and societal change is required, as can be seen in all 4 pathways. There needs to be an improved understanding of how consumers can help as well as an increased focus on digitalisation and data as smart technologies and innovative business models develop.

Key message 3: Markets and flexibility

A holistic energy market reform is needed. This reform will help to drive changes to the investment, and behaviours, that are required to succeed at delivering net zero. Additionally, this reform is needed to ensure a security of supply at a fair and reasonable cost for all consumers.

Key message 4: Infrastructure and whole energy system

An investment in whole energy system infrastructure will be required. This will entail:

  • coordinated offshore network development,
  • onshore network reinforcement,
  • hydrogen storage, and,
  • regional planning work across the electricity and gas transmission and distribution interfaces.

What does HIES think?

Faisal Hussain, HIES Chief Executive, comments:

“FES shows that consumers will be key to decarbonise homes and help achieve net zero by 2050. We need to educate consumers about the need to decarbonise and help them with suitably alternative products to their traditional gas boiler solution. Energy providers also have a key role to play by providing competitive tariffs specific to heat pumps to help with the adoption. Overall, we need to ensure that consumers are not left in fuel poverty with the adoption of electric heating.”

To access the full FES 2021 report, please click here.

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