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Three of the four FES scenarios meet the UK net zero target of 2050.
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FES 2023 continues to follow on from the same scenario framework as FES 2022. This includes using the scenario name, ‘Falling Short’, instead of ‘Steady Progression’ (renamed in FES 2022) for the scenario that misses the UK net-zero targets. This is a clear indication that the National Grid ESO continues to believe that failing to achieve net-zero by 2050 would not be an acceptable outcome.
The impact of last year’s British Energy Security Strategy on FES 2023 has been much anticipated, as some of the modelling for the FES 2022 scenarios was completed prior to the strategy’s publication. Also, FES 2023 is one of the first publications to present the impact of the growing cost of living crisis (observed over the last year) on energy.
Changes have been made to the emission calculation methodology in FES 2023 to align with international standards. This has led to a slight increase in historical net GHG emissions under sectors not directly modelled by FES. Further changes in the calculation method (i.e. removal of climate feedback in emissions calculations) have caused a reduction in projected emissions from the sectors not directly modelled within FES, with agriculture seeing the biggest fall.
A c.9.5 TWh reduction (from c.294 TWh to c.286 TWh between 2021 and 2022) in electricity demand due to the cost-of-living crisis was reported. Energy demand is expected to continue falling in the short term (until 2024). The consumer transformation and leading the way scenarios state a relatively big jump in demand reduction in the short-term future, by assuming 0.5 and 1-degree Celsius internal (i.e. buildings, homes, etc.) temperature reductions, respectively.
FES 2023 electricity demand forecasts for 2050 are higher than FES 2022 for the consumer transformation and falling short scenarios. They stay similar for the leading the way scenario, and reduce for the system transformation option.
Below is the forecast for 2050.
The drop in electrical demand is largely led by energy efficiency measures, higher building standards, behavioural changes, and demand side flexibility/response, for example. This largely enabled by digitisation, smart technology, and policies.
Equally, growth in electrical demands is largely associated with electrical vehicles, electrification of heat, electrolysis, direct air capture, and data centres. Data centres alone could represent 6% of GBs electricity demand by 2030, in comparison to around 1% today.
FES 2023 recognises that flexibility options need to be developed in tandem with renewable energy. It should however be noted that FES doesn’t include network capacity limits. It models energy flows on unconstrained networks. Even with that assumption, FES shows that the system transformation scenario has the most curtailment, peaking at almost 65 TWh by 2040.
The impact of network constraints on energy flows can be analysed in various other publications published by the Electricity System operator (ESO), and the distribution and transmission network operators.
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