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Integrating gas and electricity vectors in future energy scenarios with the 2050 Energy Pathfinder Model

Delta-ee recently supported Wales & West Utilities’ strategic work looking into the future role of gas in the UK as part of an integrated cross-vector energy system. We helped Wales &West Utilities develop a new generation of their 2050 Energy Pathfinder Model that assesses the impact of different future energy mixes on the balance of electricity and gas supply and demand for any size population in the UK. The main objectives of the rebuild were to critically review the methodology and assumptions, streamline the model methodology, and improve the model’s user interface.

The model simulates hourly supply and demand profiles for gas and electricity across a defined region for a sample year. Together with existing sources and demands, new sources such as tidal barrage, and demands such as EVs are included, alongside fuel switching between the electricity and gas vectors (for example, using hybrid heat pumps). This enables a range of storage, demand response and new technology innovations to be simulated. The model outputs the following results:

  • Electricity generation from renewables;
  • electricity generation requirements from controllable sources such as gas turbines;
  • demand on energy storage options such as commercial batteries;
  • demand response requirements such as switching hybrid heat pumps from electricity to an alternative energy source;
  • the duration of electricity blackouts if electricity demand exceeds supply;
  • gas supply mix (fossil gas, green gas and hydrogen) required to meet demand;
  • the estimated impact on household electricity and gas bills; and
  • the resultant carbon dioxide emissions from electricity and heat generation.

As an example, Delta-ee has used the model to create a hypothetical scenario for the whole UK with:

  • Twenty million additional electric cars;
  • 50% more solar generation capacity; and
  • 20% more wind generation capacity than today.

In this scenario, the additional renewable generation capacity ensures that the carbon intensity of the electricity grid remains about the same, even though total annual electricity demand is roughly 10% higher than the baseline. Despite the increase in renewable generation capacity, there is a 7% increase in electricity generated by gas turbines in order to meet the additional electricity demand from electric vehicles during in periods when wind and solar generation capacity are limited. Peak gas demand, which is used to determine the size requirements for gas networks, is around 2% higher in the scenario.

pathfinders blog

Scenario Hourly Electricity and Gas Supply – 20m EVs and 50% more wind and solar than today

There is a myriad of different scenarios that can be tested using the model. It helps show that consideration of the interactions between gas and electricity networks will be vital when it comes to developing a picture of what the UK’s future energy system will look like.

In supporting Wales & West Utilities on this project, the Delta-ee team was able to draw on our unique understanding of both gas and electricity networks, the role of future technologies, and the future challenges associated with decentralisation and decarbonisation. If you would like to know more about how Wales & West Utilities is using the model to shape their future thinking, you can check out their website. To find out more about the kind of work Delta-ee does relating to the future of the UK energy system, get in touch with Roxanne Pieterse.

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