IMechE calls on UK government to support electricity storage

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Electricity Storage policy statement - .PDF file.

The UK government is failing to provide sufficient support for electricity storage technologies, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said in a new policy statement launched today.

In a statement, Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IMechE, said: ‘As the UK ramps up its dependence on power generation from intermittent renewable energy sources, like the wind, the need to develop electricity storage technologies becomes ever more pressing.

‘These technologies hold the key to providing consumers with renewable electricity when they need it, rather than just when the wind is blowing. This will save on bills through not having to pay for dumped energy and unnecessary infrastructure.

‘For too long we’ve been reliant on using expensive “back-up” fossil-fuel plants to cope with the inherent intermittency of many renewables. Electricity storage is potentially cleaner and once fully developed is likely to be much cheaper.

‘But government incentives and policies to support development and deployment of electricity storage technologies are currently scant and ill-designed. The potential value of storage to the UK power network is at present not well understood by Westminster.’

According to the IMechE, UK electricity demand is set to double by 2050 due, in part, to the increase in use of electricity to provide heating and power cars.

This increase in demand combined with the UK’s climate-change targets and the EU Renewables Directive means the UK is set to rely increasingly on renewable power, which is inherently intermittent and, as such, cause problematic swings in supply on the UK grid.

The UK currently has 2,800MW of electricity storage capacity in the form of pumped hydro-electric storage. According to National Grid, the UK will need 8,000MW of electricity storage capacity by 2025 if the penetration of wind power in the network is 30 per cent.

The worldwide market for electricity storage is estimated to be worth $20bn–$25bn a year by 2020.

The Institution’s Electricity Storage policy statement calls on government to: support actions to identify the true system benefit of electricity storage; develop policy frameworks that reward the value of electricity storage in the UK’s power markets; and encourage and support UK development of storage technologies for exploitation in world markets.