Energy storage: UK set for new battery research centre with Government funding

Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced details of the first phase of a four-year £246m investment into battery technology as part of the Government's drive towards a low-carbon industrial strategy.

Energy storage technology could work well with electric vehicles by allowing the energy from cars to power large buildings

Energy storage technology could work well with electric vehicles by allowing the energy from cars to power large buildings

Stage one of the investment project, known as the Faraday Challenge, includes a £45m competition to establish a centre for battery research which will help to ensure the UK "leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles".

The new 'battery institute' will be led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.

The Institute will "power the automotive and energy revolution where, already, the UK is leading the world," Clark said at an event hosted by the Resolution Foundation think tank in Birmingham on Monday.

EPSRC chief executive Philip Nelson added: "The Faraday Challenge is a new way of working. It will bring together the best minds in the field, draw on others from different disciplines, and link intimately with industry, innovators and other funders... to ensure we maintain our world-leading position and keep the pipeline of fundamental science to innovation flowing."

Welcoming the announcement, James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: "The global market is quickly moving towards a decentralised model, relying less on large fossil generation and more on flexible and increasingly cheap renewable sources. More energy storage empowers this and will lead to a lower cost, lower carbon energy system that will benefit households and businesses across the country.  

“The launch of a battery institute will help guide next-generation storage technologies through the hazards that lay between a good idea in a lab and actual deployment in homes and on solar farms.

“The UK is among the global leaders for battery technology, but for the handbrakes to be taken off we need to see the rules and regulations made in a different age updated for these new technologies and approaches, coupled with a renewed commitment to renewables. The market is changing quickly, yet reversals in policy have seen the UK slowing in areas such as solar and onshore wind which are now cheaper than fossil fuels. The government needs to remember that the success of batteries, renewables and smart technologies are all interlinked.”

Smart and stable

The Faraday Challenge falls under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) - a four-year investment programme to drive innovation across six key areas, as announced in the 2017 Spring Budget.

The Government launched a three-month consultation into the UK's new industrial strategy earlier this year, garnering almost 2,000 written responses from organisations and individuals across the country. A white paper based on the results of the consultation is due to be published later this year.

Energy storage is seen as a crucial pillar of a low-carbon industrial strategy as it enables the increased use of renewable electricity generation. Demand response technology - which provides incentives for energy consumers to reduce or shift electricity use - is also seen as a key solution to deliver a smart and flexible energy system.

A Government-commissioned study carried out by Imperial College London and the Carbon Trust last year revealed that a combination of flexible solutions such as energy storage and demand response could save UK consumers between £17bn and £40bn through to the year 2050.

Luke Nicholls


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