New study points to rapid growth of electric vehicles and low carbon technology in the north of Scotland

Someone plugging in an electric vehicle plug in to their car

Northern Scotland’s roads could see 116 times the number of electric vehicles by 2032, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

The future electricity scenario analysis, undertaken by Regen, has mapped out the potential impact of meeting the country’s climate change commitments and what it means for SSEN’s licence area north of the central belt, including the Scottish islands.

The study provides a snapshot of what the energy system might look like in 2032 in four different scenarios – Community Renewables, Two Degrees, Consumer Evolution and Steady Progression* - outlined by the system operator, National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios framework.

Under the scenarios where Scotland will meet its 2045 net zero decarbonisation target through a decentralised energy landscape, the north of the country could see:

  • Nearly 407,000 electric vehicles on the north of Scotland’s roads by 2032, the year of the Scottish Government’s ambition to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars on its roads.
  • Nearly 70,000 new homes built by 2032, with 1,189 hectares of potential new commercial development.
  • 73,000 homes with rooftop solar panels installed.
  • 33% of homes fully or partially electrically heated by a heat pump, with this figure rising to 48% of households on the Scottish islands, who are predominately off-gas.
  • Generation connections to the distribution network more than doubling to 6GW by 2032, with increases in solar, battery storage, onshore wind and hydro power, enough to power around 2.8 million homes.

The GB energy system is going through its biggest change in over a century, with companies like SSEN becoming Distribution System Operators (DSO). More renewables, different ways of heating homes and businesses and electrification of transport is altering how energy is distributed and these changes will modernise the grid to help the UK meet its climate change targets.

Stewart Reid, Head of Future Networks at SSEN, said:

"This study will help us understand and prepare for the changing way we’ll be using electricity in the future and the impact it will have on the electricity network.

“With one in two homes potentially driving an electric vehicle by 2032, up from only 3,500 currently, it’s crucial Scotland’s ambitious 2045 net zero target is met with action now. At SSEN we are working to manage this transition, so nobody is left behind.

“Working within local authority boundaries, we can better understand the priorities across all four scenarios and align our network plans to their development plans.  This is about working together to drive local economic development and deliver a cost-effective network that is reflective of our customers’ needs and the country’s decarbonisation goals.”

This year, SSEN joined the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and SP Energy Networks to lead the charge on electric vehicle infrastructure with a £7.5m strategic partnership. The funding will see SSEN and SP Energy Networks trial projects to widen access to electric vehicle charging networks and provide the infrastructure required to support it, including examining the impact of the increasing number of tourists expected to use electric cars, and the infrastructure needs along the route of the Electric A9.

SSEN and Regen will be holding a webinar on Friday 29 November between 2pm – 3pm to present the results of this future electricity scenario analysis in more detail. To register, click here.

For more information, and to read the report in full, please visit:

* Future Energy Scenarios:

  • Community Renewables, which explores how the 2045 decarbonisation target can be achieved through a more decentralised energy landscape with high levels of smaller scale, local and domestic activity. This scenario tends to have the highest levels of new generation and demand connected at distribution level.
  • Two Degrees, which explores how the decarbonisation target can be achieved with a focus on larger, more centralised development. It features changes to the energy landscape such as hydrogen fuelled heat networks and transmission connected generation technologies such as nuclear and offshore wind.
  • Consumer Evolution, which is a decentralised scenario that makes progress towards the decarbonisation target but fails to achieve it. This scenario focuses on smaller scale, local and domestic projects.
  • Steady Progression, which is a centralised scenario that makes progress towards the decarbonisation target but fails to achieve it. In the timescale of this study, the scenario sees very low deployment of renewable technologies with gas generation continuing to play a significant role.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

Read more articles by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks