Local electricity could meet half our needs by 2050

Research conducted by nine leading UK universities has found that up to 50 per cent of electricity demand in the UK could be met by distributed and low carbon sources by 2050.

A team of interdisciplinary energy researchers, jointly led by the University of Bath and Cardiff University, has today released Distributing Power: A transition to a civic energy future, a report published by the EPSRC-funded Realising Transition Pathways Research Consortium.

The report assesses the technological feasibility of a move from the current traditional business models of the 'Big Six' energy providers to a model where greater ownership is met by the civic energy sector. It also goes further by questioning what types of governance, ownership and control a distributed future would need.

A major driver for this transition would be a step change in the role of the civic energy sector (communities, co-operatives, local authorities, town and parish councils, social housing providers) through participation in, and ownership of, electricity generation schemes.

Currently, less than one per cent of UK is met by community or local authority-owned distributed electricity generation. And, although challenging, an increase to a 50 per cent market share by 2050 is technologically feasible.

The researchers concluded a number of findings including:

  • National energy planning with regional and local support for a civic energy sector would be needed, resulting in a much greater role for national and local government.
  • A high-level of distributed generation would require an increase in regional, national and international interconnection, such as electricity imports from neighbouring countries. Distributed energy systems have often been equated with increased energy independence.
  • The traditional business models of the 'Big Six' would be challenged as they lose market share to local generation and supply businesses.
  • Much of the energy value that currently leaks out of the UK economy could be captured at local level.
  • Significant reduction in electricity demand would be necessary through increasing energy efficiency and conservation; households would need to more than halve current levels of electricity consumption by 2050.
  • New infrastructure, like smart-grids and emerging technologies such as in-home fuel cells, would be necessary; large-scale expansion would need to occur from 2020 onwards.
  • The impact to consumer bills would be marginally more expensive in the medium term to 2030; it would be significantly cheaper in the long-term to 2050, compared to two other scenarios considered by the team.

Report co-author Áine O' Grady, Research Officer in the Sustainable Energy Research Team at the University of Bath said: "Significant environmental benefits, particular in terms of tackling climate change, could be delivered through such a distributed energy future. Nevertheless, electricity consumption would have to fall dramatically in order to reap such benefits, with households required to halve their current electricity consumption by 2050."

Co-Leader of the Realising Transition Pathways Consortium, Professor Peter Pearson from Cardiff University added: "This report imaginatively explores an future of a kind that none of us has experienced. It illustrates one of the ways in which the UK might seek to achieve the low carbon transition envisaged in the Climate Change Act 2008."


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More information: The report can be accessed at www.realisingtransitionpathway … power_report_WEB.pdf
Provided by University of Bath
Citation: Local electricity could meet half our needs by 2050 (2015, February 26) retrieved 16 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-02-local-electricity.html
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Feb 26, 2015
Significant reduction in electricity demand would be necessary through increasing energy efficiency and conservation; households would need to more than halve current levels of electricity consumption by 2050.


In other words, it isn't happening.

4/5 of the energy consumption of an average house in the UK is heating and hot water, which is provided by natural gas. Even with energy efficiency measures, better insulation and heat recovery, substituting natural gas with renewable energy means that typical domestic electricity consumption will more than double. The energy saving efforts depend on the use of electricity because it's 2-5 times more efficient to run a heat pump than burn something for heat.

This is another case where ignoring the big picture makes it seem like you already have viable solutions when you don't.

Back to the drawing board, please.

Feb 26, 2015
"The energy saving efforts depend on the use of electricity because it's 2-5 times more efficient to run a heat pump than burn something for heat."
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Only in moderate climates. When the outside temperature dips to 50F, you are getting heated only by the friction of the compressor and the motor losses.

COPs of three are common, but I have not seen a five. Got references?

Feb 26, 2015
Well, humans just aren't gonna cut back on much of the current conveniences...
So it's up to technology to increase efficiency of those conveniences. Additionally technology will be tasked to find (and utilize) even more "sources" of energy...
I do like the "locally provided" concept, tho...

Feb 26, 2015
"I do like the "locally provided" concept, tho..."
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Gyre, about 15 years ago I did a study for Electricite de France through Institute for the Future which identified a few dozen technologies likely to affect building energy use in the next 30 years. Some are here, and the others, such as photovoltaic building materials will have a significant effect in the next decade, along with other forms of Energy Harvesting.

Those stuck in Fossil Fuel Hell with the Saudis, the Venezuelans, and the Koch Brothers will lose out.

Feb 26, 2015
"The other major factor driving growth was the 70% drop since 2008 in the contract price of solar-generated electricity delivered to the grid. Agreements in 2013 and 2014 were signed at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour, according to Utility-Scale Solar 2013 from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab."

http://newscenter...e-solar/
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Looking bad for fossil fuels now.

Mar 01, 2015
Too little, too late.

Also, with the rise of electric cars you can forget about any electricity consumption decreases.

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