Why everyone is talking about energy storage…

Unless you have been stuck under a rock all year, you will probably have noticed that a lot of people are now talking about energy storage and home batteries in a big way.

The idea of a home or business becoming energy-self sufficient and running off the renewable power it generates from solar or wind turbines has always been the end-game for many people working in the industry, but recent developments and falling prices mean that idea is now within our grasp.

Several energy companies are now developing ‘smart home’ systems with storage in mind and even Manchester City FC has got in on the act and this year launched its own home battery in association with Eaton.

The advent of electric cars also helps the cause of battery storage. Firstly, because electric car batteries can be a source of power for homes with so-called vehicle-to-grid systems are now being developed for the market.

And then there also is the question of how electric car charging points can be set up in a way which doesn’t place a drain on the National Grid.

A new report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for energy storage and the Renewable Energy Association highlights the growing role batteries and energy storage could play within the next few years.

The report contains three different scenarios for the future of battery storage.

The ‘high-deployment’ scenario predicts 12GW of additional battery energy storage by 2021, based on more projects being co-located at solar and onshore wind sites and larger-grid connected projects.

However, the report concedes a ‘medium deployment’ scenario of 8GW of battery storage is more likely.

It also contains a ‘low-deployment’ scenario, which forecasts just 1.7GW of storage with minimal regulatory change.

Political buy-in

The report states policy is the ‘largest barrier to deployment’ as the international EV supply chain develops, technology improves and costs fall.

Speaking at the report’s launch event in parliament, the chair of the APPG, Peter Aldous said he ‘senses’ there is now ‘political buy-in from across the political spectrum’ for energy storage.

‘Batteries are competing with more established technologies in the government’s capacity auctions and there are massive projects on the horizon,’ he told the event.

‘Drax are proposing a 200MW battery power station in Yorkshire that will be twice the size of the one TESLA has just opened in South Australia,’ he added. ‘It is one thing we will be beating the Australians at.’

Mr Aldous said battery storage will also ‘maximise the efficiency’ of offshore wind and solar farm developments.

‘But, it’s not just about power,’ he added. ‘It’s about transport sector as well. Who would have thought a year ago that we would have had significant announcements with countries around the world phasing out traditional petrol and diesel cars and moving towards electric vehicles? That in itself, provides opportunities for batteries in those vehicles.

‘Battery storage can also plays a role with consumer empowerment for households and businesses becoming self-sufficient and tackling personal actions towards tackling and reducing carbon emissions.

‘It also plays a role in moving towards a decentralised power network and balancing grids,’ added Mr Aldous.

Emerging framework

The Conservative MP also highlighted the ‘significant manufacturing opportunities’ that battery storage could bring.

‘One example of this is UK companies working with the Department of International Trade and assisting Peruvian villages in providing power through batteries and solar,’ he told the event.

‘The response there is that Peru gave us Paddington and we are providing them with power for the people,’ he joked.

He also added that a policy framework ‘within which an industry can get established and thrive’ is starting to emerge from the government.

‘The immediate challenge facing government is to remove regulatory barriers and if the government keeps to their smart systems and flexibility plan that they released in July then significant battery deployment can take place.

‘I would also say the government does need to be cautious about imposing levies on homes with battery storage, because these are likely to play a key role in enabling the UK to be a global leader in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

‘Batteries themselves are nothing new,’ he added. ‘What is new is their scale and game-changing potential.’

The chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Nina Skorupska, added: ‘Most people in the UK know the story of renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind, the price of which has collapsed globally due to international supply chains and government support.

‘Recent analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that the price for these technologies could halve again in the coming years in the UK, and already they are the cheapest form of new power generation available.

‘The UK government and many in the industry significantly underestimated how cheap and popular solar PV was to become.

‘Analysis at the start of the decade by the energy regulator, Ofgem, expected between 2GW and 7GW of solar to be deployed in the UK by 2030, instead over 12GW was deployed by the end of 2016. The technology and deployment patterns for battery storage and solar PV are similar, and this report is intended to drive big thinking and put the UK on the front foot, rather than react after-the-fact.’

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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