Electricity

Power sector carbon emissions are expected to fall rapidly in the early 2020s in all scenarios. In every scenario except Steady Progression, carbon intensity becomes negative for electricity generation by 2035.

 

Key insights

Installed generation capacity, storage and interconnection to 2050 

 SV Electricity key insights

 

  • Rapid decarbonisation of the electricity sector is essential to meet net zero and enable the decarbonisation of other sectors such as heat and transport through electrification. The use of BECCS means we can achieve overall net negative emissions in the power sector.

  • Increased electricity peak demands compared to FES 2020 mean we will need more generation capacity, particularly renewables, as well as flexible technologies and demand side response. 

  • As unabated gas generation is phased out in the 2030s in the net zero scenarios maintaining system security will be challenging. To achieve this, we need to see accelerated uptake of zero carbon technologies and carbon capture usage and storage.

  • The profile of electricity supply is changing. We will see demand side response play a central role in flexibility, this will ensure security of supply in a more efficient way.

  • Connecting high volumes of new renewable generation, particularly offshore wind, to the electricity system will be challenging in the short term due to the need for network reinforcement.

 

Where are we now?

Electricity generation capacity and output in 2020 

Figure 23 for SV Electricity where are we now

The electricity generation sector has seen the most progress made on decarbonisation, particularly in recent years and renewable generation capacity, primarily wind and solar, has increased fivefold over the past decade. This growth has been supported by Government subsidies and rapid reductions in cost. One of our major challenges in decarbonising the electricity system further is to replace fossil fuels as a source of flexibility on the electricity system. This will become increasingly important as we see more variable weather-driven sources of generation on the system.

Capacity on the electricity transmission network to move power across the country and between regions, from where it is generated to where it is needed, is an important factor. Detailed discussion of this is beyond the scope of FES but can be found in these publications which build on our FES analysis: Electricity Ten Year Statement, Network Options Assessment, and the Offshore Coordination Project.

 

Scenario Overviews – Electricity Supply

Power sector carbon intensity 

 

SV Electricity Scenario Overviews

 

The proportion of renewable generation increases across all scenarios, with offshore wind expected to provide the backbone of our electricity supply in 2050. Variable renewable technologies typically have a substantially lower load factor than fossil fuel generation. This means that generating an equivalent amount of energy, requires significantly higher installed renewable generation capacity.

Across all scenarios we see an increase in renewable generation output, particularly offshore wind, which grows to make up over half of electricity supply by the late 2030s in all scenarios. Natural gas as a proportion of output reduces through the 2020s, as it is displaced by renewables as the largest share of generation. In 2050 wind, solar, nuclear and BECCS provide over 90% of generation output in all scenarios.

 

Annual electricity supply

Consumer Transformation

Figure 25a for SV Electricity CT

 

The route to 2050

Consumer Transformation sees rapid uptake of renewable generation, particularly offshore wind and solar, to support a highly electrified economy. The target of 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030 is met, and the 2020s see the development of the first BECCS and hydrogen powered generation. Gas generation output reduces rapidly through the 2020s, but is still used to support security of supply. Capacity declines in the 2030s, offset by continued increases in renewable and nuclear generation, including significant numbers of small modular reactors, growth in hydrogen generation capacity and BECCS. The power sector reaches net negative emissions in 2032. Storage and interconnection also play an increasingly important role, providing flexibility as fossil fuel capacity reduces.

What does 2050 look like?

Total electricity generation capacity is 290 GW, plus a further 68 GW of electricity storage and interconnection capacity. Electricity generation output is nearly three times that of today at 883 TWh, with 141 TWh exported. Wind, solar, nuclear and BECCS provide 97% of electricity, supplemented by many technologies delivering small amounts of energy. High levels of hydrogen generation capacity, interconnection and storage provide flexibility to help meet peak demands, while there is a large net export of electricity over the interconnectors. The power sector delivers net negative emissions, reaching a carbon intensity of -54 gCO2/kWh.

System Transformation

 Electricity LW

 

The route to 2050

This scenario sees greater growth of large-scale technologies connected to the transmission network. The Government's 2030 offshore wind target is narrowly missed, reaching 40 GW in 2031, but with continued growth after this point. Growth in renewable generation is still rapid, although slower than the other net zero scenarios, with more limited growth in decentralised technologies such as onshore wind and solar. This scenario sees the greatest increase in hydrogen generation from 2030, alongside the development of gas CCS to offer flexibility as unabated gas generation is phased out post-2030. Large-scale nuclear plants come on stream post-2030 and play an increasingly important role. Interconnection and storage capacities increase steadily but provide a smaller share of flexibility.

What does 2050 look like?

Total electricity generation capacity is 258 GW, plus a further 47 GW of electricity storage and interconnection capacity. Electricity generation output is well over twice that of today at 724 TWh, with 108 TWh exported. Wind, solar, nuclear and BECCS provide 95% of generation output, gas CCS and hydrogen provide less than 1% of generated electricity but play an important role in meeting security of supply. There is a large net export of electricity over the interconnectors across the year, this helps manage renewable generation output and meet peak demand. The power sector delivers net negative emissions, reaching a carbon intensity of -55 gCO2/kWh with negative emissions from BECCS more than offsetting residual emissions from gas CCS.

Leading the Way

 Electricity LW

 

The route to 2050

This scenario sees the most aggressive growth in renewable technologies, reaching 40 GW of offshore wind by 2029 and continuing to increase through the 2030s. It also sees high levels of onshore wind growth. BECCS generation is developed ahead of 2030. There is no growth in new nuclear after small modular reactor demonstration plants in the early 2030s. Natural gas generation is phased out rapidly, with only limited installed capacity remaining post-2035 to support security of supply. Alternative technologies like hydrogen need to be ramped up rapidly ahead of this date.

What does 2050 look like?

Total electricity generation capacity is 248 GW, plus a further 71 GW of electricity storage and interconnection capacity, meeting lower annual and peak demands than the other net zero scenarios. Electricity generation output is well over twice that of today at 701 TWh. Wind, solar, nuclear and BECCS provide 96% of generation output; these are supported by high levels of interconnection, storage and some flexible hydrogen generation to meet peak demands. Interconnectors continually import and export power with a net balance close to zero. The power sector delivers net negative emissions, reaching a carbon intensity of –43 gCO2/kWh.

Steady Progression

Electricity SP

 

The route to 2050

Steady Progression sees more gradual decarbonisation of the power sector; growth in offshore wind continues, with 30 GW installed by 2030, but more limited growth of onshore wind and solar. Post-2035 there is limited phase-out of gas generation plant, offset by some growth of gas with CCUS and large-scale new nuclear in the 2040s. Emissions from the power sector fall below 42 gCO2/kWh by 2030, and decline gradually after this point driven by the shift away from unabated gas. Interconnection capacity continues to grow up to 2035 while storage continues to gradually increase.

What does 2050 look like?

Total electricity generation capacity is 201 GW, plus a further 37 GW of electricity storage and interconnection capacity. Electricity generation output is over 1.5 times that of today at 513 TWh, with 79 TWh exported. Wind, solar, nuclear and BECCS provide 92% of generation output, the electricity system is dominated by renewables, particularly offshore wind, but fossil fuels still play a key role, with gas generation and gas CCUS generation providing flexibility to support renewable generation, along with interconnectors. Carbon intensity of electricity generation has fallen by over 90% from today to 14 gCO2/kWh.