One thing we have learnt this week- Electric dreams

Electric dreams!  Over the last week or so there have been some big energy announcements on storage, solar, electric cars and energy demand. These all fit together into one seamless whole – electric dreams.

First the electric cars. The UK government announced that all conventional cars will be outlawed by 2040. Or will they? Hybrids will be allowed and these use diesel or petrol. 2040 is a long way off as well. This announcement was making people think they are doing something about particulates. Nevertheless with other governments around the world making the same kind of moves the direction of travel is clear (pun intended). The end of oil for road transport is in sight.

Electric cars and energy demand are clearly linked though. If all road transport goes electric then electricity demand will rise. The question is by how much? As it happens both the Green Alliance and National grid have been having a think about this very recently. Wood Mckenzie think it could be about 3%, National grid come up with a confusing range of figures but think the figure could be up to 88TWh by 2050. Where is this power going to come from?

First we need to remember there is beginning to be at least some slack in the system. Electricity demand is falling at the moment due to LED’s and more efficient white goods. Our household is typical of this trend at the moment our energy use is falling fast (see graph below). This will buffer some of the demand, although against this there is a huge program of power station closures.

long term importIn addition we don’t know how much people will use their cars, or whether we will even own cars in the future (with autonomous vehicles).  There has to be a suspicion though that without some kind of road charging or some other big change in society the high ownership of cars will continue.  For the last 60-70 years car ownership has become embedded in the culture and will be harder to shift than some proponents of autonomous vehicles think.

Another unknown is how the electric car technology will improve.  National grid assume it will but don’t really talk about their methodology (they do talk a lot about rapid charging technology).  Obviously as range improves so will need for charging them.

Next week I will look at the implications of all this.

Neil

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