REA calls for energy policy reform to unlock storage megashift

The UK has "multiple gigawatts" of energy storage capacity that is proposed or in the development pipeline, but this will fail to come to fruition without a joined-up and more supportive policy structure from Government, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has claimed.


In a report released last week, the REA indicated that the total gigawatt capacity of applications for storage to the distribution network has reached double digits, but that clear market improvements to the policy framework will be needed in order to unlock this potential.


“Policy is the single greatest barrier to the industry’s growth and reform is needed,” said REA’s head of policy and affairs James Court. “Storage is already a reality for the UK and right now there’s an opportunity to cement us as a global centre for investment, deployment, and research. Many technologies have advanced quickly and are now commercial; as such the storage industry is not seeking a direct subsidy.

“Storage is a critical technology for the decentralisation of the UK’s energy system and will support long-term renewables deployment.”

EFR storage

According to the Energy storage in the UK report, there are currently 35 standalone grid-connected energy storage projects and 1,500 active residential energy storage systems – ranging from lithium-ion batteries to pumped-hydro schemes – across the UK, as of August 2016. This existing storage operating capacity of 3.23GW is broadly the equivalent to that of the Hinkley Point C nuclear project in Somerset, or to four new large gas power plants.

On top of that existing capacity, at least 453MW of new storage capacity – which is largely battery-based – is either under construction or being commissioned, and an additional 200MW of Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) storage was contracted by the National Grid in September. The EFR awarded its first wave of four-year energy storage contracts to seven different energy firms including Vattenfall, Low Carbon and EDF Energy Renewables.

The REA points to 1.2GW of extra energy storage capacity that had bid into the EFR auction but did not win a contact as “a clear indication that the storage industry has matured quickly and is ready to deliver”. These extra projects will have demonstrated that they are ready to deploy and will have secured planning permission and grid connection capacity, the organisation states.

Global ‘megashift’

The REA’s senior policy analyst Frank Gordon added: “Energy storage has great potential in the UK, and can unlock billions worth of savings according to the Government’s advisers. Our research indicates that there are multiple gigawatts of capacity that are being proposed or are ready to be developed, but a joined-up and supportive policy structure is critically needed.”

The REA oversees the UK Energy Storage group to help the industry reach its potential and this has now grown to more than  100 member companies active across a range of technologies and scales.

The National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios 2016 report forecast up to 18GW of energy capacity in the UK by 2040, while the National Infrastructure Commission’s Smart Power report concluded that a combination of storage, interconnection, and flexibility could save British consumers up to £8bn a year by 2030, with the right policy framework.

Globally, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) last year predicted that there will be an international ‘megashift’ towards energy storage – batteries in particular – within the next 10 years, as the cost of lithium-ion and flow batteries looks set to fall significantly.

Download and read a copy of the Energy storage in the UK: an overview report here.

Luke Nicholls & Alex Baldwin


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