And finally… Thousands of UK households and businesses could be energy producers by 2035

A future of energy study by Arup has predicted that many people and businesses across the UK will be generating their own power by 2035.

Endorsed by Energy UK, Energy systems: A view from 2035 sets out the energy solutions required to bring the UK on track to meet its 2050 climate change targets. It shows a country made up of a diverse range of heating sources, within a more decentralised energy system, where households and businesses play a greater role in managing and producing their own energy.

The study suggests there will not be one solution within the future energy system, but many. This will make flexibility – in system architecture, system operation and the regulatory framework – essential. However, it warns that although major changes in the way the UK produces, manages and uses energy are inevitable in the coming years, how these are steered will be essential to achieving the government’s three objectives of decarbonisation, security and affordability.

The study highlights the following changes, and more:

  • Electricity– will be low carbon and local, with many people no longer relying on the grid. New nuclear plants will become operational and offshore wind will grow rapidly.
  • There will be between 50-77GW of intermittent solar and wind generating capacity on the system compared to 27GW today

  • Decentralised energy and microgrids– demand-side response (where customers are incentivised to lower or shift their electricity use) and batteries will become widespread in commercial and residential properties, industrial parks, universities and airports. New towns will develop microgrids to reduce the load on the national grid

  • Heat– the heat sector will become fragmented, especially in inner cities. It will no longer rely on natural gas – but will become a multi-sourced system varying by location and type of building. For example, hydrogen will replace natural gas in the suburbs and various cities.
  • Smart homes – New properties will be energy neutral. At times they will export energy back to the grid (for example from solar generation) and at other times they will import energy from the grid. Some properties will be built with energy storage which will allow them to be self-sufficient all year round.
  • Transport – Personal ownership of vehicles will be progressively phased out, with all new vehicles either electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered. The rail network, including trams, will be fully electrified other than a few hydrogen trains.

  • With more energy retailers in the market - including local energy co-operatives and municipal suppliers - consumers will have a wider variety of products available to them including time-of-use and peer-to-peer tariffs (via blockchain technology).

    Filippo Gaddo, head of energy economics at Arup, said: “The next few decades are expected to be amongst the most transformative for the energy industry and billions are being invested to ensure that it is fit for the future. For this investment to enable positive change, flexibility across energy systems and within regulation will be essential in order to achieve a sustainable, affordable, and low carbon future. The UK has the opportunity to lead the way in the future of energy development, but it will be technological advances, investors and policy changes – highlighted within this study - that drive this forward.”

    Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, added: “Customers must be at the heart of any future energy system. The energy sector is working hard to bring forward an energy system that continues to lower emissions, provides reliable supply, at lowest cost. The work Arup has done highlights how and where the changing system and decarbonisation imperative will create new roles, interactions and dependencies - as well as potential business models that will help make this future energy landscape possible. This brings many promising opportunities, but we must continue to build the evidence and have open dialogue about the challenges and the size of the investment required to update our energy infrastructure.”

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