Fraunhofer ISI: The regional distribution of electricity demand will change fundamentally by 2030

February 08, 2017

On behalf of the German Transmission Network Operators, the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI has analyzed how electricity demand and load will develop in the period 2013 to 2030 and beyond. The research team developed three scenarios for the analysis. The demand for electricity declines by 2030 or remains constant depending on the respective scenario. In addition, fundamental changes at regional level can be expected in the future: While the demand for power remains constant or increases in urban regions and neighboring districts, there may be a stronger decline in some rural regions. The study in German “Netzentwicklungsplan Strom – Entwicklung der regionalen Stromnachfrage und Lastprofile“ (“Grid development plan – regional electricity demand and load development“) is an important component when drawing up plans for future grid expansion.

The German transmission network operators produce a grid development plan at regular intervals, which analyzes future grid loads and expansion requirements in the transmission network. The starting point of the grid development plan is the framework scenario approved by the German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) that describes possible future generation and demand situations. On behalf of the German Transmission Network Operators, the Fraunhofer ISI compiled an accompanying expert report that is oriented on this framework scenario but not completely identical to it: When designing the scenarios of the “Grid Development Plan 2030”, the research team integrated the diverse feedback, information and comments provided in the past by the interested public (for example in workshops held as citizen dialogs) into further developing the modeling of electricity consumption.

Based on current forecasts of how the population and economy will develop, the researchers determined how regional electricity demand could evolve from 2013 to 2030 and beyond this up to 2050. Based on the transmission network operators’ guidelines for the framework scenario, they developed three scenarios for the period up to 2030 that differ in terms of the design of energy and climate policies, the penetration rate of technologies and the share of flexible power consumers:

  • In Scenario A, efficiency improvements, the introduction of new applications and flexibility play a minor role.
  • Scenario B assumes that the defined measures are strongly supported.
  • Scenario C presumes very ambitious efforts that aim at an accelerated energy transition.

Based on the electricity demand of 523 Terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2013, the demand in all the scenarios either declines or remains more or less constant: Scenario A’s less ambitiously designed energy policy results in a moderated decrease to about 504 TWh by 2030. Scenario B shows an almost continuously declining trend to about 490 TWh, which is mainly due to efficiency improvements in existing technologies. Scenario C has the smallest decrease in electricity demand because efficiency improvements and the diffusion of new technologies basically compensate each other, so that the demand in 2030 is the same as in 2013.

While the period up to 2030 is mainly determined by an efficiency-based decline in electricity demand, a look at the development up to 2050 reveals a possible significant demand increase in the medium and long term. This is due to further sector coupling options such as the increasing diffusion of electric vehicles and heat pumps. In addition, the analysis shows that the results are significantly influenced by regional differences in economic and population developments: While electricity demand tends to grow in urban regions and their neighboring districts, rural regions show shrinking tendencies. 

Dr. Rainer Elsland, head of the study at Fraunhofer ISI, emphasizes: “This detailed analysis is a better foundation compared to previous grid development plans for forecasting the consumption and load in future grid utilization situations under the expected changes. The transmission network operators have introduced improved methodology into the grid development planning process in order to achieve greater acceptance for future grid expansions“.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.