‘No credible scenario’ exists for hitting the UK’s 2050 decarbonisation targets without continued reliance on gas, the National Grid has warned.

In a new report, entitled The Future of Gas: How gas can support a low carbon future’, the grid says that it is not feasible to switch over to electric heating on the scale required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by the middle of this century.

To fill the gap required to meet peak heating demand during the winter with electricity would require a seven-fold increase in generation capacity.

It says that while electricity demand currently peaks at around 60 GW, up to 350 GW of electricity would be required during winter cold snaps.

“Electrifying heating would therefore require enormous increases in generating capacity and electricity network infrastructure, much of which would lie idle in the summer when heating is not needed. Using the gas system has the potential to reduce the volume of generation and reinforcement work required.”

It says that a mass switch over to electric heating would also be ‘disruptive’ and ‘expensive’.

The alternative route to electrifying heating, involving a mass roll out of heat pumps, could only be achieved in combination with gas in order to continue to meet peak demand on colder days,

“Through all of our analysis we are yet to identify a credible scenario that meets the 2050 carbon targets without gas,” concludes the report, which was published on Friday.

The grid says that needs to take immediate action to remove the policy gaps and barriers preventing the conversion of the gas network to low carbon fuels, like hydrogen and bio-methane.

It says that the government must provide clarity on its preferred pathway to decarbonise heat ‘as soon as possible’ in the early 2020s in order to give industry the confidence to invest.

The government has said it will decide by the middle of the next decade about long term moves to decarbonise the heat system.

The report expresses concern that the government’s timescales and process for subsequent decision making about the decarbonisation of the heating system remains ‘unclear’.

It estimates that around 20,000 existing gas boilers will need to be replaced every week in order to meet the 2050 target.

The report also calls for the first carbon capture and storage projects to be up and running by the 2020s in order to ensure that the technology can be deployed at scale in the following decade.

Responding to the National Grid report, Dr Luke Warren, chief executive of the Carbon Capture Storage Association, said: “The UK relies on gas to heat homes, and to support industry. By removing emissions, CCUS enables gas to have a long-term future in a low carbon economy. This will provide value to consumers against more costly alternatives. The Committee on Climate Change also recently concluded that the Government should plan to meet climate targets without CCUS as this would be highly challenging and much more costly.

“Industry and government must now work together to deliver a CCUS Deployment Pathway that enables the UK to benefit from this critical technology.”