UK lags behind US

2 min read

The UK is several years behind the USA in deploying electrical energy storage technologies, despite British organisations having a technology base at least the equal of their American counterparts.

The widening gap means Britain is missing out on major economic and environmental benefits, according to speakers at a Global Watch seminar on March 14th, entitled ‘Electrical energy storage: a mission to the USA’.

The seminar, hosted by EA Technology in Capenhurst and attended by more than 80 delegates, followed a DTI-sponsored mission to America by UK power specialists in December. It found that the US government and power companies were well ahead of Britain in recognising and exploiting the potential of electrical energy storage systems, including large-scale batteries, flow cells and flywheels.

Reporting on the mission, EA Technology Principal Consultant John Baker said: ‘The consensus among delegates was that the UK should aim to at least double its installed electrical energy storage base to four or five gigawatts by 2020.

‘The main driver for developing electrical energy storage systems in the USA is commercial, particularly in terms of minimising the capital asset costs of ensuring quality and security of supply. However, an increasing number of US states and utility companies recognise the potential environmental benefits, for example by buffering variable distributed generation supplies to maximise carbon mitigation.

‘The UK technology base is comparable with that in the US, but the US has a much greater commitment to rolling out the technologies available, with initiatives including utility-scale demonstrations of integrated systems and the installation of increasing numbers of small and medium sized operational storage facilities.

‘US organisations are also open to sourcing the core energy storage technologies from outside the USA, which presents a major business opportunity for UK developers and systems integrators.’

The mission’s report recommends that both the UK government and electricity industry should consider ways to close the energy storage gap with the US, as a matter of priority.

It urges the government to develop and fund clear strategies for encouraging the deployment of storage technologies and supporting the UK technology base, while removing any market or regulatory obstacles which stand in the way of development.

The report urges industry members to identify specific opportunities for the early adoption of storage, especially for distribution asset deferral and more efficient renewables integration – and to back their proposals with strong business cases, quantifying the financial and environmental benefits.

In addition, the report argues for robust partnerships between government organisations and electricity companies, similar to those already in place in the USA, to drive forward industrial scale energy storage demonstrations and deployment.