The National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios (FES) document, released in July 2017, aims to encourage and inform a national debate about how the national grid should transition towards an energy system that is secure, affordable and sustainable. It is published every year with the assistance of stakeholders from across the industry.
One of its key messages is that an energy system with high levels of distributed and renewable generation has become a reality, with growth in this area set to continue. However, that in turn increases the complexity of running the energy system. Furthermore, market and regulatory arrangements need to adapt quickly to a more flexible energy system involving an increasing number of participants.
Electricity demand will increase in the future (the increasing entry of electric vehicles (EVs) into the automotive market springs to mind here) and the shape of that demand will also change. A range of solutions need to be introduced in order to deliver the best value for consumers, including smart energy technologies, a coordinated approach across the whole system, improved transmission and distribution infrastructure and various commercial approaches such as encouraging consumer behaviour change.
The document predicts four probable future energy scenarios: Two Degrees, Slow Progression, Steady State and Consumer Power.
In the first of these, increased investment delivers high levels of low carbon energy with consumers making conscious choices to become greener and being able to afford to do so. This scenario sees all the UK low carbon energy targets being achieved.
In the Slow Progression scenario, low economic growth and affordability suppress the transition to a low carbon energy system. The focus moves to longer-term environmental policies.
The Steady State scenario predicts current 'business as usual' attitudes prevailing with the main focus being security of supply at low cost. This is the least affluent of the scenarios and the least green, with little appetite for investment in low carbon technologies.
Finally, the Consumer Power scenario predicts high economic growth with more money to spend. Consumers show little interest in switching to low carbon technologies or to become environmentally friendly.
So which scenario is the most likely? The document doesn't really say, and that isn't really its function anyway, leaving that instead to the wider national debate. Instead, what it does do is explore each scenario in detail and explains what each involves and its potential impacts.
The rest is up to us.