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Soaring demand for electrification in Highlands as report outlines radical move to sustainable energy by 2050; Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks: 'We are beginning to see a much clearer decarbonisation pathway'


By Hector MacKenzie

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The number of electric vehicles on the roads is set to soar.
The number of electric vehicles on the roads is set to soar.

The Highlands could see over 250 times the number of electric vehicles on its roads and the number of heat pumps keeping homes and businesses warm mushroom by over 100,000 by 2050.

That's according to a report published by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution. Distribution Future Energy Scenarios examines the impact of a net zero future on the company’s electricity distribution network in the north of Scotland.

The UK and Scottish Governments’ respective 2050 and 2045 net zero targets will require extensive electrification in energy generation and the UK’s transport and heat sectors.The Climate Change Committee’s recent analysis suggest that this shift could treble electricity demand on the UK’s electricity network.

Looking to the future, SSEN is investing now to help it better understand and prepare for this forecasted demand, ensuring it can continue to meet the needs of the communities it serves.

The new report, undertaken by sustainable energy experts Regen, uses four national energy scenarios from National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios as a framework.

Under the Consumer Transformation scenario, which reflects government climate policy, the study forecasts that by 2050, the Highlands could see:

· Over 250 times the number of electric vehicles on the roads, from around 500 today to over 130,000 in 2050

· A gigantic increase in the number of heat pumps in domestic and commercial properties, from just under 4000 today to over 103,000 in 2050

· An increase of over 500% in solar panel capacity, from 15MW today to 93MW in 2050. On a wider scale, across SSEN Distribution’s network in northern Scotland, the report forecasts:

· 8.8GW of local renewable generation could be connected to the distribution network, including solar, wind, hydro and marine - an increase of over 285% from just over 3GW in 2019

· Around 112,000 new homes could be built by 2050 across the network area, with 11,200,000 m2 of new commercial development predicted in this period

The detailed forecasts provide a snapshot of the impact of the net zero journey on local communities between now and 2050. SSEN has published the report on its website and will be sharing the findings with local authorities, regional stakeholders, and the UK and Scottish Governments to help inform and target investment decisions.

This will mean a significant increase in EVs on the roads which will require charging infrastructure, heat pumps in our homes and small-scale renewables on our roofs.

Andrew Roper, SSEN’s distribution system operation director, welcomed the report. He said:“This report is a valuable tool in informing and supporting the communities we serve transition to net zero in a secure and cost-effective manner. This will mean a significant increase in EVs on the roads which will require charging infrastructure, heat pumps in our homes and small-scale renewables on our roofs.

“Data sharing will be critical in the net zero journey. That’s why we have made this data publicly available and will continue to work alongside the households, businesses and communities we serve to deliver a fair, cost-effective and secure transition to a net zero future.”

Ray Arrell, Regen’s head of technical development led the team that developed the scenario analysis. He said: “This report reflects the unprecedented rate of change within the UK electricity system. Already we have seen a massive shift in generation towards renewable energy technologies.

"This is set to continue and will further drive down the carbon intensity of electricity, which will in turn enable the decarbonisation of transport and heat with the rapid adoption of electric vehicles and heat pumps. Meanwhile new technologies such as battery storage and hydrogen electrolysis are moving from speculative project enquiries to on-the-ground deployment.

“The rate and level of change makes it challenging to predict future network requirements, especially down to a sub-regional and local level. However, with input from a wide range of stakeholders and industry partners, including the Scottish Government and local authorities, the DFES 2020 presents a range of credible scenario outcomes, backed by extensive research and data analysis.

“As we would expect, there is significant variation across the scenarios, which for the DFES 2020 includes three scenarios that adhere to net zero emission targets. However, as UK and regional leaders firm up on their commitment to achieve net zero, we are beginning to see a much clearer decarbonisation pathway.”


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