Northern Powergrid Element Energy

Northern Powergrid Distribution Future Energy Scenarios - DFES 2020

Northern Powergrid's potential future scenarios, both interpreted from the 2020 National Grid Future Energy Scenarios, and from Northern Powergrid's 2020 Emerging Thinking Scenarios.




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About this visualisation - DFES 2020

As part of our planning for decarbonisation we have considered a range of possible pathways that our region could take to get to net zero by 2050, in order to determine what action we need to take in 2023-28. With low carbon energy consultants Element Energy we have created a regionalised interpretation of the future energy scenarios published by National Grid for FES 2020. We have also selected one of our own Emerging Thinking net zero scenarios built using bottom-up “building blocks” – key elements of energy generation and consumption that make up the UK’s energy market and how this will change in order to decarbonise in the future. These building blocks can broadly be split into three key categories: heat, transport, and generation and storage. Each of the scenarios shown here have different assumptions about the volume and rate of usage of each of the building blocks. Together they provide a range of credible but different views about how decarbonisation will practically be achieved under different pathways.

We’re publishing here our modelling results for our stakeholders to review and comment upon. The five scenarios are:

  1. Net Zero Early (from Northern Powergrid's 2020 Emerging Thinking)- a hybrid pathway which meets net zero by 2045 by accelerating the uptake of Electric Vehicles and Electric Heat Pumps in the early years where these are the main technologies available, and in later years making some use too of Hydrogen via hybrid heat pumps.;
  2. Consumer Transformation (our regional interpretation of National Grid's 2020 FES) - an electric heat pathway which meets Net Zero by 2050;
  3. SystemTransformation (our regional interpretation of National Grid's 2020 FES) - a hydrogen heat pathway which meets Net Zero by 2050;
  4. Leading The Way (our regional interpretation of National Grid's 2020 FES) - an electric heat pathway which meets Net Zero by 2048;
  5. Steady Progression (our regional interpretation of National Grid's 2020 FES) - a pathway which does not succeed in meeting Net Zero by 2050;

Details of the assumptions used in each scenario are described in further detail below. These scenarios represent different possible future worlds but should not be used as a prescriptive forecast; Northern Powergrid and Element Energy accept no responsibility for the use of this data.

These regional pathways together form our 2020 Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES). They also incorporate feedback from stakeholders who engaged with our 2019 DFES published in December 2019.

If you have any comments, questions or feedback on our scenarios, please send them to

Northern Powergrid DFES 2020 scenario assumptions in detail

Net Zero Early

This scenario world is extremely ambitious, achieving net zero compliance in the mid-2040s. The scenario relies on intensive investment in low carbon technologies, as well as early action from government and a high level of engagement from consumers, in order to achieve aggressive rollout rates, especially of EVs and heat pumps.

On the road transportation side, the scenario relies on deep electrification at an accelerated rate. A ban on all internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles as well as hybrid vehicles takes effect in 2030 resulting in the phase out of fossil fuel powered vehicles in the mid-2040s. The electrification of transport also extends to commercial fleets with buses and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) transitioning to electric power trains before 2050.

In regard to building level heat, new build properties are required to take low carbon heating technologies from 2025. Off-gas grid properties are also required to renew their heating systems with low carbon systems from 2025 onwards, and on-gas properties are no longer able to replace heating systems with natural gas boilers from 2030 onwards. This scenario promotes rollout of hybrid heat pumps at an early stage, allowing the heat pump market to build gradually through the mid to late 2020s ahead of the steep increase in rollout rate required from 2030. By the mid-2040s, all high carbon heating systems become obsolete. The gas grid still exists but at reduced capacity relative to current levels and by the mid-2040s it is entirely converted within the Northern Powergrid region to delivering low carbon hydrogen serving customers on hydrogen hybrid heat pumps.

The incentivisation of renewable generation continues and offshore wind generation grows rapidly. The rollout of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies is also successful and from the early 2030s and onwards, both gas CCS and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) play a significant role in the generation mix. With an engaged society, there is moderate uptake of consumer driven technologies such as domestic solar PV and batteries.

Leading The Way

This scenario meets the net zero carbon target in 2048. Industrial and Commercial (I&C) energy efficiency improves by at least 20% by 2030. I&C decarbonises early through electrification (~1st 15 years) followed by hydrogen when it becomes available. Enhanced EU residential electrical efficiency targets are met with consumers rapidly moving towards smaller or more portable appliances. Heat and transport are mostly electrified.

This scenario is supported by stable government and regulatory policy/legislation. Key policy decisions are made in the mid-2020s, creating clarity for zero carbon technologies. Carbon taxation is very high. Aggressive emission targets are set by communities and local and regional authorities drive faster adoption of low-carbon technologies with a strong emphasis on speed of progress. Solutions are a mix of electrification and hydrogen for heating.

High levels of renewable/low carbon generation are deployed to support hydrogen production from electrolysis and there is a stronger push to develop new projects. Rapid uptake in hydrogen usage is needed to expedite decarbonisation with medium levels of hydrogen used in transport, industry and some heating.

Targets to end sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans are very ambitious. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) is pushed to enable more renewable generation. Charging happens in a wide range of forms (home, rapid, destination etc.) In terms of flexibility there is high consumer and I&C engagement in smart systems, Vehicle-to-Grid adoption levels are low and we see strong growth in the DSR market.

System Transformation

Meets the net zero carbon target in 2050. High usage of hydrogen for heating and other energy demands. I&C energy efficiency improves by 20% by 2030. All credible industrial processes to be considered for a switch to hydrogen fuel source. While there is good progress in efficiency thet UK still misses EU 30% target. Consumers move towards smaller or more portable appliances and heat and industrial processes are moved to hydrogen where credible. Cars may use hydrogen after 2030. A self-sustaining hydrogen economy develops at a national scale. Industrial processes are moved to hydrogen where credible. Hydrogen boilers in commercial settings. Domestic heat networks switch to mainly hydrogen and electricity-based solutions adopted in new build properties.

The scenario is supported by a high carbon tax. Key political decisions are made in the mid-2020s. Clear effective policy/pricing creates clarity for zero carbon technologies.

Generation needs are met from major development of renewable technologies geared slightly towards larger, more centralised projects. There is high demand for hydrogen, CCUS is rolled out at scale for SMR. This is a low electrification scenario with high levels of hydrogen usage for heat, I&C and transport. Multiple Steam Methane Reformation (SMR), Utothermal Reformaing (ATR) and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) plants around the country meet the bulk of demand initially. Some electrolysis projects are developed. High levels of hydrogen storage. Stable government framework and support for capital investment.

Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) uptake requires further policy support. Growth in public transport is lower due to limited consumer willingness to switch from private transport. Hydrogen is the fuel of choice for HGVs and a larger proportion of the bus fleet than in other scenarios. Consumers somewhat engaged in Smart Charging however adoption of V2G is slowed by technology concerns. In terms of flexibility there is medium consumer and I&C engagement in smart systems.

Consumer Transformation

This pathway meets the net zero carbon target in 2050 with a relatively high consumer impact. I&C Energy Efficiency improves by at least 20% by 2030. All credible industrial processes will be electrified. On efficiency the UK meets the EU 30% target. Consumers rapidly move towards smaller or more portable appliances. Heat and transport are mostly electrified. This is a highly electrified scenario. Industrial processes are electrified where credible. Sustainable hydrogen economy does not materialise. Heating is largely electrified using a combination of building level technologies and district heating.

The scenario is one of stable government and regulatory policy/legislation. Key political decisions are made in the mid-2020s, creating clarity for zero carbon technologies. There is high carbon taxation.

Generation needs are met from a high level of development in renewable technologies geared slightly towards smaller, more decentralised projects. High electrification levels leads to low demand for gas. Medium/Low levels of hydrogen produced via electrolysis are used in transport, I&C and some heating. Hydrogen is used for peaking plant.

Consumer demand accelerates private EV adoption. Buses are predominantly electric and a larger proportion of HGVs are electric than in other scenarios. Consumers highly engaged in smart charging and V2G and charging predominately happens at home. High consumer and I&C engagement in smart systems, Vehicle-to-Grid adoption levels are low and we see strong growth in the DSR market. There is not a supportive framework for decarbonisation. Carbon taxation remains low. Unpopular, difficult, uncertain or expensive decisions are delayed or not taken at all.

Steady Progression

Steady Progression meets only a 68% carbon target by 2050. UK misses clean growth strategy target to improve business and industry energy efficiency by 20% by 2030. Slow progress with energy demand reduction as heat and industrial processes become more efficient. Low fuel prices. No major shift in demand as consumers buy similar appliances to today. EU targets missed. No strong mandate from public for strong decarbonisation drive and thus no step change in policy.

Pilot projects on clean heat solutions do not scale and incentive schemes are not extended. Heat networks are not decarbonised and remain largely unregulated.

A slow transition to decarbonisation of generation occurs however progress is still likely to be substantial as generation switches to low carbon sources. Traditional sources of gas supply continue to be used and hydrogen levels are low. Hydrogen demand is not significant enough to justify imports.

Consumer resistance and other barriers means slower uptake of electric cars and limited at-home charging. Gas seen as a viable way of decarbonising HGVs and buses. Low growth in public transport usage. Limited customer flexibility. Low consumer and I&C engagement in smart systems, Vehicle–to–Grid adoption levels remain low and we see slow growth in the DSR market.


For this visualisation we have created geographies (polygons) for each Primary substation in Northern Powergrid's network. We chose to use Output Areas (2011) as these are the building blocks of census geography as used by the Office of National Statistics. We have used customer postcodes to identify each Output Area supplied by each Primary substation. Output Areas with fewer than 10 customers connected to a Primary substation were excluded. This helped with anonymisation and also reduced data issues in the customer database e.g. incorrect customer postcodes. We construct representative geographies for each Primary substation from the remaining Output Areas. In cases where multiple Primary substations serve the same Output Area, that Output Area is assigned to the Primary substation that serves the most customers there.

Some Primary substation geographies may show larger areas on the map than they cover in practice particularly in rural areas where network connectivity may be concentrated in specific parts of an Output Area. The areas shown here are representative for the purpose of showing the Future Energy Scenario model data and should not be relied upon for checking connectivity or to assess the terms of connection for specific premises.

Local Authority view

The model predictions have been created by Primary substation and that is the definitive view. The Local Authority view is constructed from the Primary substation values. We have found the proportion of a Primary substation's customers in each Local Authority district (as defined in April 2019) by adding up the customers in each Output Area belonging to a specific Local Authority district. For some parameters (e.g. electric vehicles) the values from the Primary substations are apportioned to each Local Authority District and then summated into totals. For values which can't be summated (e.g. Peak demand) we have shown the maximum value for any Primary substation that serves a Local Authority. For Local Authorities which are only partially in Northern Powergrid areas the model only produces forecasts for the area served by Northern Powergrid, so it is not a total Local Authority forecast. Examples of these Local Authorities partially served by Northern Powergrid include Bassetlaw, East Lindsey, High Peak, North East Derbyshire, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Pendle, West Lindsey. There are some additional major sites situated within a Local Authority area which distribute into many Local Authority areas and which may have further direct connections for large wind, solar and other generation. Data for these Grid Supply Points (connection points between the GB transmission network and Northern Powergrid’s distribution network) and Bulk Supply Points (connection points on NPg's network which are fed from the Grid Supply Points and supply the primary substations) can also be downloaded from Data Mill North.


DFES 2020 data files can be found on Data Mill North and the Primary substation data files that power this visualisation are stored with this repository on Github.