UK could save £3 billion a year by increasing energy storage capacity to 2GW

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As £20m energy storage competition winners are announced, the Electricity Storage Network (ESN) calls for 2GW by 2020 storage target to drive green growth.

London, 8th May, 2013: Representatives from the Electricity Storage Network (ESN) today congratulated the winners of Phase 1 of the UK’s £20m energy storage competition, but called for government and industry to rally behind a target to install 2GW of energy storage by 2020.

The importance of storage is rising due to the need to rewire Britain as we incorporate renewable energy and upgrade the country’s power infrastructure. Storage can deliver significant savings by balancing intermittent renewable energy generation. The proposed target of 2GW of energy storage capacity promises savings on UK energy spend of around £3bn a year by the 2020s[1]. Also, the value of storage increases markedly towards 2030 and further towards 2050, when 25GW would save £10bn a year.

In November 2012, George Osborne outlined his aim to, “…make the UK a world leader in energy storage”, highlighting the role of energy storage as a key technology that could help boost the market for electric vehicles and enhance UK energy security.

Anthony Price, Director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network, said:

“While this UK competition is a step in the right direction, we need a strong commitment from Government to enable the UK to build and lead the energy storage market. Despite previous assurances that energy storage is a vital part of the low carbon economy, we have yet to see a policy pathway that delivers adequate storage capacity to keep the lights on now, and to capitalise on new low carbon technologies in the future.”

A critical issue with increased amounts of wind power on the system occurs during periods of relatively low demand. The system operator requires flexibility to balance variations in generation and demand, but with fewer conventional power stations, the system operator is limited in the actions it can take. Without storage, conventional generation has to be kept running in the background to provide reserves, but storage, which can be charged from low cost renewable energy, can respond without the need to be maintained in a running state. Currently no value is attributed to ‘warehousing’ or storing the ‘wrong-time’ wind energy for when it is needed later in the day, nor to reducing the carbon cost of providing the reserve. The value of storage is therefore almost entirely unrecognised in the current system.

Government direct spending on energy RD&D has almost quadrupled in recent years to over ₤500 million in 2010/1). Whereas renewable energy secured more than a third of the five year total, and energy efficiency almost a quarter, energy storage is currently rolled into other power and storage technologies which secured no more than 4%. Hydrogen and fuel cells received 5% each, more than all other storage technologies combined, without having yet developed a commercially viable product.

Professor Richard Williams, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at University of Birmingham, said:

Storage is not an option but a necessity. The danger of not understanding storage is that this situation may result in the risk of uneconomic and inappropriate supply and management systems being created. Government and politicians need to grasp the opportunity.”

The ESN’s target of 2GW of new electricity storage, connected to the nation’s electricity network is equivalent in size to the large, and successful pumped hydro storage system at Dinorwig in North Wales, which was built 30 years ago. To meet the 2GW target, a number of systems would be deployed, with some near to centres of electricity demand, and others close to sources of generation. In comparison, the Government’s target for renewable generation is more than 23,000MW of new renewable generation planned by 2020.

About the Electricity Storage Network

The Electricity Storage Network represents the interests of its members in promoting the social, technical and economic benefits of electrical energy storage. The Electricity Storage Network works to raise awareness of the benefits of energy storage as an integral part of the power network and the low-carbon global economy.

The Electricity Storage Network urges the Government to consider the following changes to energy policy:

· Create a new classification for electricity storage so as to remove the present regulatory and commercial uncertainty on ownership and operation

· Initial capital grants should be extended to include large scale commercial demonstrations of electricity storage where appropriate

· Electricity storage should be given at least equal support to other low carbon grid technologies through a specifically targeted mechanism, modelled on support mechanisms that target other specific low carbon technologies

· The support mechanism should reward a storage plant according to its ability to both absorb and discharge energy, flexibility, speed of response, power rating, energy storage capacity and location

· Transmission and distribution licences should explicitly allow operators to own and operate electricity storage and receive capacity payments for these services

· Energy storage devices should be able to be integrated with other renewable and low carbon generation solutions, including biomass, energy from waste, and waste heat, without compromising their subsidies