Introducing our 2021 Future Energy Scenarios

Changing the way we consume power

Our Future Energy Scenarios (FES) draw on hundreds of experts’ views to model four credible energy pathways for Britain over coming decades. Matthew Wright, our head of strategy and regulation, outlines what the 2021 outlook means for consumers, society and the energy system itself.

This year’s Future Energy Scenarios insight reveals a glimpse of a Britain that is powered with net zero carbon emissions.

Our analysis shows that our country can achieve its legally-binding carbon reduction targets: in three out of four scenarios in the analysis, the country reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with Leading the Way – our most ambitious scenario – achieving it in 2047 and becoming net negative by 2050.

Read our Future Energy Scenarios 2021

Two scenarios – Leading the Way and Consumer Transformation – see Britain reduce its emissions by 2035 by the 78% (from 1990 levels) committed to in the recent sixth Carbon Budget.

But our analysis also highlights the level of societal change and policy direction that will be needed to meet these targets.

Changing the way we consume power

Consumers will need to embrace new ways to use energy in the coming years.

That means a greater understanding of how their power use and lifestyle choices impact how sustainable our energy system will be – from how we heat our homes, to when we charge our future cars.

For example, in our Leading the Way scenario, people in 2050 are turning down their thermostats by an average of 1°C, reducing heat demand by 13%1.

And over 80% of households are smart charging their electric vehicle (EV)2, responding to time-of-use energy tariffs to access cheaper, greener energy and reduce peak demand on the grid.

Switching to LED light bulbs and smart appliances, too, could have a significant impact, with potential improvements of over 30% in consumers’ energy efficiency according to our Consumer Transformation scenario7.

Britain is making strong progress on that journey – but the changes we outline in FES show how important a coordinated approach will be to capitalise on that momentum.

Clear policy direction from government on, for example, residential heating and support for energy efficiency measures will also be key to reducing overall demands.

In the two scenarios that meet the sixth Carbon Budget target, the government achieves its pledge to install 600,000 heat pumps per year – with up to 2.6 million installed by 20253 and over 25 million by 20504 – but our analysis shows that the pledge should be supported by policies on retrofitting thermal efficiency measures in homes to fully realise energy savings.

Across our FES scenarios we could also see:

  • up to 37.4 million electric vehicles on Britain’s roads by 20505;
  • a 60% reduction in energy demand for road transport by 2050 compared to today, even in the slowest decarbonising scenario6;
  • power sector emissions being negative by 2034 in all net zero scenarios8;
  • no unabated combustion of natural gas for power beyond 2035 in our most ambitious scenario9.

With the decline of natural gas use, hydrogen plays a central role in all of the net zero scenarios.

Electrolysis – converting surplus wind or solar energy into hydrogen power – will introduce significant flexibility to the electricity network, with hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen boilers replacing natural gas in some scenarios.

The government’s plan for a hydrogen town – set out in its Energy White Paper – could be realised before the end of the decade in two of our FES scenarios10.

Next steps on the net zero journey

As the country’s electricity system operator, our ambition is to be able to run the grid with zero carbon.

A zero carbon electricity system would be a significant achievement, but still only one step on our country’s road to net zero.

Britain is making strong progress on that journey – but the fundamental changes outlined in our latest FES insight show just how important a coordinated approach will be between policymakers and industry if we’re to capitalise on that momentum.



  1. p46 – from the Leading the Way scenario
  2. p58 – from the Leading the Way scenario
  3. p51 – from the Leading the Way scenario (equates to around 9% of homes)
  4. p49 – from the Consumer Transformation scenario
  5. p62 – from the Steady Progression scenario
  6. p58 – from the Steady Progression scenario
  7. p49 – from the Consumer Transformation scenario
  8. p23 – from the Leading the Way, Consumer and System Transformation scenarios
  9. p97 – from the Leading the Way scenario
  10. p43 – from the Leading the Way and System Transformation scenarios