National Grid warns of ‘dramatic’ jump in electricity demand, due to electric vehicles

A dramatic growth in electric vehicles on Britain’s roads could see peak electricity demand jump by more than the capacity of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by 2030, according to National Grid.

The number of plug-in cars and vans could reach 9m by 2030, up from around 90,000 today, said the company, which runs the UK’s national transmission networks for electricity and gas.

The impact of charging so many cars’ batteries would be to reverse the trend in recent years of falling electricity demand, driven by energy efficiency measures such as better refrigerators and LED lighting.

If electric vehicles were not charged smartly to avoid peaks and troughs in power demand, such as when people return home between 5pm and 6pm, peak demand could be as much as 8GW higher in 2030, National Grid said.

Shifting the charging of cars to times when demand is lower would reduce the extra peak demand to 3.5GW, a smaller amount but still a similar capacity to the new reactors being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The forecasts are contained in the grid’s Future Energy Scenarios report, published just days after Volvo said all its new cars would be electric or hybrid from 2019 and France pledged to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

National Grid acknowledged the cars’ batteries could also provide services and return power for the grid at a time when managing the network is becoming increasingly complex as variable sources of wind and solar power grow.

But it cautioned that there was “still debate over whether it will become commercially viable to flow electricity from a vehicle back onto the network to provide network services”.

In all of the scenarios, new nuclear power stations are assumed to be built and the capacity of interconnectors that provide backup power from Europe rises from 4GW now to between 10GW and 19GW in 2030.

National Grid did not take a view on the costs of the scenarios in the report, which was published just a day after a consumer group accused energy networks, including National Grid, of earning £7.5bn in unjustified profits over an eight-year period.

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