Rapid Rise of UK Electric Vehicles Sees National Grid Double Its 2040 Forecast
By Simon Evans
There could be as many as 36m electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads by 2040, double the number expected just a year ago.
That's according to the latest National Grid Future Energy Scenarios, published today. Yet despite raising electricity demand, National Grid now said the rapid rise of EVs will help the UK shift towards more renewable and low-carbon electricity generation.
Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technology means EVs will be able to help smooth electricity usage through the hours of the day, National Grid said. They will be able to charge mainly when demand is low and even feed back into the grid when demand is high.
"Growth in EVs supports the continued trend towards more low-carbon generation," said National Grid. "[They] will be able to support the continued growth in renewables by storing excess generation and releasing it back onto the network when it is needed."
Future Energy Scenarios
Each year, National Grid publishes a set of four scenarios for the UK's future energy supply and demand built around the company's own modelng and consultation with the energy community. The scenarios help the company plan for an uncertain—but rapidly changing—energy system.
Fintan Slye, director, UK system operator at National Grid wrote in a foreword:
"It's impossible to accurately forecast a single energy future over the long term. However, creating a range of credible futures allows us to continue supporting the development of an energy system that's robust against different outcomes."
This year's scenarios include a stronger focus on the UK's transition to low-carbon. "We've refreshed our scenario framework to reflect the increasing importance of decentralization and decarbonization in our industry," Slye wrote.
Nevertheless, only two of the four scenarios meet the UK's legally binding greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050—an 80 percent cut on 1990 levels. This target is likely to be raised in response to the 2015 Paris agreement. These points form important context for National Grid's conclusions.
In previous years, only one of the four scenarios met the UK's 2050 target.
Twice as Many EVs
One of the most striking changes in this year's scenarios is the much more rapid adoption of EVs. This can be seen in the chart, below, which compares scenarios that meet the 2050 target and were published in each year between 2013 and 2018.
Above: Number of EVs on UK roads in National Grid scenarios published between 2013 and 2018. Source: "Gone Green" or "Two Degrees" Future Energy Scenarios 2013-2018. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts
Between 2013 and 2015, National Grid consistently said there would be around 5m EVs on UK roads by 2035. It raised that 2035 outlook to 8m in its 2016 work, rising to 10m in 2040, as Carbon Brief reported at the time. The outlook grew again last year to 13m in 2035 and 17m in 2040.
This year, National Grid said there could be up to 25m EVs by 2035 and 36m by 2040, effectively doubling its outlook from last year. The figures represent a tripling compared to 2016's figures and a five-fold increase from the 2015 numbers. By 2040, National Grid now said EVs will reach saturation point, with all possible vehicles electrified and new EVs replacing old ones as they retire.
A June 2018 brief on transport modeling said:
"We have been working hard to develop a much more holistic road transport model that takes into account the whole cost of ownership of vehicles. Our new model is much more granular in its detail and consequently it is more robust than previous ones."
The same June brief explains how National Grid has been working to understand the way that people will use and charge EVs. The electrification of transport—and, potentially, also heat—is set to raise UK demand for electricity, meaning more generating capacity will need to be built.
Last year, National Grid's earlier work on the impact of this new electricity demand was widely misreported as showing that the transition to EVs would be unmanageable. Since then, it has been working to expand its evidence base and to more realistically explore the impact of EVs.
The brief explained:
"We have been gathering large amounts of evidence to help us formulate views on some of the more uncertain variables associated with vehicle use and charging preferences. The 'how and what' type of chargers that people use is all being considered.
"We anticipate that most consumers will avoid peak time charging although some may still choose to do so. Vehicle to Grid technology is also a new input into our model … In our scenarios, we show that this is going to have significant impacts on the energy landscape of the future."
Combining these new insights on deeper EV penetration, smarter charging and vehicle-to-grid, National Grid now says peak electricity demand could be increased by between 3-8 gigawatts (GW in 2030 (4-14 percent) and by 3-13GW in 2050 (6-22 percent). This is shown in the chart, below.
Above: Net increase in peak UK electricity demand due to electric vehicles, in four different scenarios. Note that only "Community Renewables" and "Two Degrees" meet the UK's current climate goal for 2050. V2G is vehicle-to-grid. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2018
These ranges can be compared to last year's future energy scenarios, which saw 2050 peak demand increasing by at least 6GW and as much as 30GW as a result of EVs. The top end of this range assumed that all charging was "dumb," taking place during peaks. National Grid now thinks the majority of chargers will be "smart," enabling most consumers to shift demand off-peak.
Note that the largest increases in 2050 peak demand are in scenarios that do not meet the 2050 carbon target ("Steady Progression" and "Consumer Evolution"). The target-compliant scenarios ("Community Renewables" and "Two Degrees") see earlier increases in peak demand, due to more rapid uptake of EVs, but also faster adoption of vehicle-to-grid technology.
The main difference between the two target-compliant scenarios is what National Grid calls "engagement." This reflects whether consumers choose to charge their EVs during peak demand or whether lower tariff prices encourage them to charge during periods of low demand.
(More broadly, the shift to EVs will reduce energy demand, as they are more efficient than combustion-engine vehicles. An interactive tool developed by the Carbon Tracker Initiative shows how much EV adoption will cut into global oil demand.)
Balancing the Grid
This year's report says the use of smart chargers and vehicle-to-grid technology means EVs can "supports the continued trend towards more low-carbon generation" by smoothing supply and demand.
Smart charging shifts "engaged" consumers to use off-peak electricity for their EVs (shown in the orange areas of the chart, below). Vehicle-to-grid technology charges EVs using off-peak electricity then feeds it back into the grid at times of peak demand (red areas).
Above: EV charging impact on UK electricity demand through the hours of each day. Blue: Non-transport demand. Purple: EV charging by "unengaged" consumers, adding to peak demand. Orange: Off-peak EV charging by "engaged" consumers. Red: Vehicle-to-grid technology that shifts demand from peak to off-peak periods. Source: National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2018
National Grid said a range of commercial developments support its updated views on EV charging behavior: "A number of energy suppliers have launched EV specific tariffs that have a time of use element [pricing to encourage off-peak charging]."
There have also been innovations and trials in vehicle-to-grid technology, it added.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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