At EirGrid, one of our roles is to plan the development of the electricity transmission grid to meet the future needs of society. Key to this process is considering the range of possible ways that energy usage may change in the future. We call this scenario planning.
In 2017 EirGrid introduced scenario planning as a way of developing the electricity grid so that it continues to support Ireland's economic growth and expanding population in the face of an uncertain future. As part of our first Tomorrow's Energy Scenarios (TES) cycle, we developed a set of scenarios outlining four possible futures for the supply and consumption of electricity out to 2040. Our scenarios are:
Renewable electricity generation maintains a steady pace of growth. This is due to steady improvements in the economy, and in the technologies which generate electricity. New household technologies help to make electricity consumers more energy aware. This increases energy efficiency in homes and businesses. Over time, electricity consumers gradually begin to make greater use of electric vehicles and heat pumps. This means that, over time, electricity powers a larger proportion of transportation and heating.
The economy enjoys high economic growth. This encourages the creation and rollout of new technologies for low carbon electricity generation. There is strong public demand to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to high carbon prices and incentives for renewables, this creates a high level of renewable generation on the grid. This clean energy then combines with improvements to broadband and transport to drive growth in large data centres.
The economy experiences very slow growth. Investment in new renewable generation is only in established, low risk technologies. Due to poor economic growth, new technologies that could increase the use of renewable generation at household and large scale levels are not adopted. Overall there is little change in the way electricity is generated when compared to today. Domestic consumers and commercial users are also avoiding risk and uncertainty. The only source of demand growth is the connection of new data centres but the level of investment slows down significantly after 2025.
A strong economy leads to high levels of consumer spending ability. The public want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity consumers enthusiastically limit their energy use and generate their own energy. This results in a large number of community led energy projects and a rapid adoption of electric vehicles and heat pumps in the home.
In November 2018, EirGrid launched the TES 2017 System Needs Assessment report. This document highlights the long-term needs of the grid in Ireland out to 2040. These needs are due to forecasted changes in how electricity will be generated, used, interconnected and stored in future. These future needs are based on potential problems identified in the four scenarios.
We take a cyclic approach to scenario development. Involving our stakeholders in the development cycle helps us to ensure the continuous improvement of our scenarios. The System Needs Assessment concludes the 2017 TES cycle.
Our next scenario development cycle will begin in spring 2019. We will streamline TES development in 2019 by combining the consultations on scenarios and locations and by producing one consolidated report. This will result in a shorter three phase development cycle.
We look forward to engaging with our stakeholders as part of TES 2019 scenario development.