Britain will depend on more imported natural gas and electricity over the next 14 years even as demand is set to shrink, according to the country’s network operator.
Britain’s gas imports will rise as much as 38 percent by 2030 with the bulk coming from liquefied natural gas and pipeline supplies from Russia, National Grid Plc said in its Future Energy Scenarios report. The U.K. will get more electricity from its neighbors amid a fivefold increase in the capacity of power cables linked to other nations.
National Grid forecasts 5 gigawatts of fossil-fueled power plants — enough to power 10 million European homes — will shut this year, crowded out of the generation mix by renewables as the U.K. reduces carbon emissions from its energy supply. Government decisions to cut wind and solar subsidies and end green measures for homes have hurt investor confidence, delaying spending on new plants, lawmakers said earlier this year.
“The decarbonization agenda is driving significant changes to the energy supply market,” National Grid said in the report. “The scale of change has been faster than many anticipated.”
National Grid’s energy predictions are based on four scenarios, ranging from “Gone Green,” where environmental stability is a top priority, to “No Progression,” in which the focus is on affordability above green ambition.
Gas demand is set to slump in all of the scenarios. It will fall as much as 31 percent where residential consumption declines and the fuel’s use in power generation is relegated to supporting intermittent renewables rather than running round the clock. Britain met about 58 percent of its gas use with imports in 2015.
LNG supply is likely to be high, at least until the early 2020s, with imports by 2035 forecast at as much as 23 billion cubic meters, or as much as 35 percent of the U.K.’s gas supply. Russia can increase gas exports by 47 bcm to northwest Europe over the next 20 years, while more than half of Britain’s supplies could be met by alternative sources such as shale gas and biomethane by 2040.
Britain will need a maximum 7 gigawatts of new gas-fed power stations by 2022 to compensate for the nation’s phase-out of coal generation by 2025. The new capacity will need a final investment decision within two years, the grid operator said.
Power demand is forecast to decline as much as 4.8 percent by 2030, dropping in all scenarios apart from “Gone Green” where heating and transport is electrified. The capacity of power cables linking the U.K. to other nations is expected to jump to as much as 23 gigawatts from about 4 gigawatts now.
While green energy may provide about a third of the U.K.’s needs in the next 14 years, the nation is still unlikely to meet its 2020 clean-energy targets, the grid operator said.
Security of supply will be maintained by “more small-scale thermal generation, access to additional capacity through greater interconnection, and the continued growth of thermal low carbon technologies,” National Grid said.