Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution has published research that shows unprecedented growth in low carbon and digital technologies, demanding exponential network growth across their licensing areas to support the net-zero transition.
SSEN’s latest Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES), published annually, investigates the emergence of new technologies on its distribution networks in central southern England and the north of Scotland.
Key findings of this year’s DFES are that in seven years’ time (by 2030) SSEN needs to ensure sufficient network growth to accommodate:
- Nearly two million Electric Vehicles (EVs), up from less than 100,000 today;
- Nearly 700,000 heat pumps in households, an increase of nearly 1,300% on today’s levels;
- The emergence of a significant new source of electricity demand through hydrogen electrolysis, increasing from today’s levels of 2MW in both licence areas to a total of 242MW by 2030;
- Battery storage that is forecast to increase by well over 2,000% compared to existing connections.
Clean tech proliferation
According to SSEN, their licence area in central southern England has some of the best solar irradiance in the UK, a figure which will almost triple by 2030.
New sources of generation, they state, such as energy from waste and bioenergy are set to become increasingly dominant as old, fossil-fuelled generation is decommissioned and hydrogen-fuelled generation may start to emerge with 19MW modelled to connect by 2030.
SSEN’s southern region is also likely to see major demands on network capacity, with one of Europe’s largest operational battery storage projects of 100MW already connected to the southern network and a request to increase its capacity by 50%.
Additionally, drivers are switching to cleaner transport, with a 57% increase in EVs over the past year, which means approximately 1% of all cars on north Scottish roads are now powered by batteries.
With some of the best wind speeds in the UK and 2.1GW of onshore wind already connected, the foundations are laid for the anticipated trebling of renewable generation by 2030, spread across wind, solar, hydro and marine capacity.
Hydrogen generation is also due to emerge for the first time, with 22MW forecast to connect by 2030. Battery storage also starts from a low baseline of just 8MW but is projected to increase to 1.9GW in seven years’ time.
Adam Bain, whole system development manager at SSEN, said: “Our annual DFES reports are an essential part of the evidence base we use to make sure our network is ready for a net zero future. This year’s findings illustrate how we must step up to the challenge to ensure our business and our networks are ready for the colossal changes that are already happening.
“The granularity of the data we publish is thanks to detailed input we receive from local and regional stakeholders, who share their time and expertise to ensure these figures are as accurate as possible. I would like to thank all contributors and look forward to working with them in the years ahead, to support their net zero transitions.”
Tamsyn Lonsdale-Smith, senior energy analyst for Regen, commented on the importance of SSEN’s reports to investigate the uptake of demand-side clean energy tech, such as EV chargers and heat pumps, and large-scale generation and storage projects.
“Due to an increase in project developer activity in the past year, we’ve seen significant growth in the number of new projects seeking to connect to the distribution network since the 2021 DFES were completed. This includes significant solar PV projects in Southern England, onshore wind projects in the North of Scotland and a larger-than-ever pipeline of prospective battery projects across both licence areas.”
Each of the reports is undertaken by sustainable energy experts Regen, using National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios as a framework to forecast four potential outcomes. The baseline figures are taken from 2021.