New study suggests national electricity demand could peak at 85GW by 2050, compared to around 60GW today, thanks to surge in EV use

A massive rollout of electric vehicles could deliver a sharp increase in peak electricity demand by mid-century, National Grid has suggested.

In the annual update of its Future Energy Scenarios, released today, National Grid says peak electricity command could hit 85GW if EV adoption surges to account for 90 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2050 and are then charged haphazardly by wealthy consumers who are not driven by environmental concerns.

In comparison, in a world where electric vehicle numbers increase at the same rate but smart charging technologies are used more widely, shared vehicles are commonplace, and more people charge their cars at off-peak times, peak electricity demand could rise by just 6GW by 2050, despite the widespread electrification of the transport system.

The annual paper sets out National Grid’s four prospective visions for a future energy system, based on extensive analysis of current energy demand and future projections, as well as changes in consumer behaviour and technological advances.

This year’s scenarios reflect the growing acceptance of low-carbon technologies, with all but one of the four scenarios envisioning a rapid uptake of electric vehicles, a sharp growth in the number of heat pumps and renewable energy generation hitting 40 per cent by 2030.

The report comes just a day after the Go Ultra Low campaign confirmed that sales of EVs set new half yearly, quarterly, and monthly records during the first half of the year.

The best case scenario for the environment mapped out by National Grid – dubbed the “Two Degrees” in reference to the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal – promises the highest level of economic growth of the four scenarios.

Under the company’s projection, consumers make a conscious effort to be greener, while higher taxes are levied on those consumers and businesses that continue to choose carbon intensive options such as natural gas for heating.

However, while being broadly in line with the government’s decarbonisation plans the ‘Two Degrees’ model is the only scenario in which the UK meets all its carbon targets.

In contrast, under the worst case scenario, dubbed “Steady State”, the UK experiences sluggish economic growth with investment focused on cutting the short-term cost of energy rather than investing in low-carbon solutions for the long-term. Little progression on decarbonisation is delivered, with consumers not incentivised to switch to greener technologies and businesses adopting a low-risk, short-term value approach to innovation.

“The scenarios are not predictions, but they aim to be a catalyst for debate, decision making and change, and provide transparency to the wider industry,” Marcus Steward, head of energy insights at National Grid, said in a statement. “Electric vehicles are one of many new technologies that are rapidly transforming the energy sector; technical progress and cost reductions in storage and solar panels have driven major change in a short space of time.”

“This new era of network operation is exciting and manageable, but it’s important there is investment in smart technologies and electricity infrastructure, and a coordinated approach across the whole electricity system,” he added.

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