UK energy storage capacity could reach 1.6GW with 'effective regulation'

The UK's energy storage capacity could reach 1.6GW by 2020, but only with changes to existing regulations, the industry has claimed.

The UK’s current energy storage capacity is around around 24 MW

The UK’s current energy storage capacity is around around 24 MW

A report released on Monday by environmental consultancy Eunomia found that the UK’s storage capacity - currently around 24MW - will accelerate in 2017 and then 'increase exponentially' to more than 1.6GW by 2020.

The initial surge in 2017 is likely to be driven by the introduction of the National Grid’s Enhanced Frequency Response contracts, which are intended to help maintain grid frequency within an acceptable range. Post-2017, as deployment increases, technology and installation costs are likely to fall further, resulting in another installation surge.

Industry trade group the Energy Storage Network has previously lobbied Government to establish a 2GW target by 2020.

Knowledge sharing

The Eunomia study also analyses the global energy storage picture, noting that the US has by far the most energy storage capacity of any country, followed by Japan.

According to Eunomia, deployment in these countries has been driven by progressive policy measures, including subsidies, ambitious targets and tax exemptions.

However, Julian Wayne, the energy storage networks manager at RES – a Hertfordshire firm which recently announced plans to build its first UK energy storage project – told edie that the sector didn’t need this type of active support, but simply smarter regulation to get to its targets.

Wayne said: “Given that the UK has historically had very few operational electricity storage sites, UK energy policy, market arrangements and network access and charging rules are not adequately designed for storage.

“This results in a number of unnecessary and no doubt unintentional barriers to the uptake of electricity storage. In order to realise the value to the UK that storage delivers and make the UK an attractive place to invest, the focus should be on addressing these barriers; a subsidy is not required.”

The Eunomia report echoed this call for clearer signals from Government to provide investors with more confidence in the sector.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has given early indications that she will try and provide this confidence, saying last week: “We [DECC] are trying to do more on storage regulation. We are keen to regulate it in a way that does give the incentives needed, because storage is a very important part of how we are going to manage our low-carbon future.”

Business case

Eunomia’s analysis suggests that ‘behind-the-meter’ applications, where commercial energy users install energy storage systems, are the most attractive investment options, thanks to the growing differences between peak and off peak retail prices, and increasing charges from the distribution and transmissions operators.

For example, by storing excess renewable energy generated onsite (through rooftop solar PV for isntance), or by simply drawing down more off-peak power into a battery, industry can effectively go ‘off-grid’ during peak periods and thus avoid paying high power prices.

The study's lead author Adam Baddeley said: “Our techno-economic modelling of different applications has shown that behind the meter solutions are already proving an attractive proposition and we are even beginning to see energy suppliers offering to install storage at the sites of energy intensive customers.”

Why is energy storage needed?

The recent mass deployment of intermittent renewables increases the long-standing challenge of matching supply and demand, with its knock-on effects on the frequency of the grid.

Secondly, the UK distribution network was designed for a ‘top down’ flow of electricity, from small numbers of very large power stations.

The increasing deployment of distributed generation such as solar and wind farms, is causing new challenges for the electricity network, with ever-larger areas of the distribution network reaching their maximum capacity. In these areas, the grid is no longer able to accept new grid connections.

Electricity storage can provide greater flexibility to the grid network, absorbing or releasing energy to smooth intermittent generation patterns and demand variability.

Approximately 425GW of energy storage will be needed to support the planet's transition to 45% renewable energy by 2030, according the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Brad Allen


energy storage | renewables | solar | technology


Technology & innovation
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