National Grid: We need immediate action to hit net zero, stop picking winners

Kayte O’Neill, National Grid ESO: Act now, or pay later

“Net zero is achievable, but requires immediate action on all fronts,” according to National Grid ESO head of strategy Kayte O’Neill. The UK must “stop trying to pick winners and start to make progress” across the board.

Speaking at an MEUC conference, O’Neill said there are “no regrets options” available immediately and that energy efficiency will be “a key part of the transition”.

She added that electric vehicles and smart charging will be “a really important factor” in enabling renewables growth but that the industry’s digital and data capabilities are currently inadequate to enable a cross-vector smart system.

For its own part, the ESO “needs to do a huge amount of work on system operability issues to enable carbon-free grid operation by 2025,” said O’Neill. She said “taking a much more proactive role with other parties” to better facilitate a smarter system is a key plank of the system operator’s next five year business plan.

Future energy scenarios

National Grid’s 2020 future energy scenarios (FES), the annual report in which it models potential future pathways, will include three scenarios where net zero is met, said O’Neill. “One of those scenarios gets us there quicker, because the sentiment seems to be that there is a desire to do it, and stakeholder feedback is that multiple scenarios that do not get [to net zero] is not in step with where the energy industry is,” she added.

FES 2020 will include analysis on the “level of burden on consumers and acceptance,” said O’Neill. She said the ESO will also “cost scenarios in a more comprehensive way”, though these will be published after the FES document, “probably in Autumn.”

O’Neill added that the scenarios “assume we can overcome operability issues”. Asked for thoughts on where inertia – used to keep the power system stable and traditionally provided by large spinning thermal plant – will come from in future, she replied: “We can see ourselves in a world where we are buying inertia as a service.”

In the meantime, National Grid ESO is running a series of events around actions immediately required to enable decarbonisation within a 30-year time frame. O’Neill said the ‘bridging the gap to net zero’ events will kick off with sessions on bio resources, EV flex and heat flexibility.

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