It’s time to introduce the business community to the electricity storage industry

Viewpoint

AP HeadshotGrid-scale electricity storage is here and the wider business community needs to engage with it and help accelerate its implementation, says Anthony Price, chairman of the Electricity Storage Network

Pumped hydroelectric, such as Dinorweg in Wales, is not the only large-scale energy storage method
Pumped hydroelectric schemes, such as Dinorwig in Wales, is not the only large-scale energy storage method

When it comes to the topic of electricity storage, everyone has heard it referred to as the ‘Holy Grail’ of the power sector. The prospect that we can store at scale clean energy (other than pumped hydro) from renewables for peak time distribution and balance out the grid, has been something that the industry has been working hard towards for decades, and something that some people still incorrectly believe is 10 years away. The reality is that the industry is here, its developed its technologies, proven them through major pilot projects, established partnerships with its supply chains and is ready to enter the market. Its now time to bring in the wider business community to accelerate the deployment of storage and exploit one of the next great industries for the UK.

The UK Government demonstrated its commitment to electricity storage, with the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), allocating millions of pounds to support the deployment of projects and dedicated academic centres across the country. These programmes developed over many years, ensured that promising UK technologies have been demonstrated at commercial scale, while laying the foundations for the next generation of storage technologies to be envision in academia.

Efforts to develop the storage are now bearing fruit. In 2016, British companies were given the opportunity to tender for National Grid’s Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) auction, valued at a total of £65 million over four years. The process involved the storage industry bringing suppliers, EPC contractors and the finance community together for the first time. The result was that DNO’s received several GWs of network applications, reaffirming that the storage industry is now open for business, however it also demonstrated the need for careful coordination between the various procurers of services. The Capacity market auction in December of the same year resulted in contracts for 500 MW of battery storage projects.

As Governments around the world continue their transition to move away from a fossil fuel based economy, the UK storage industry, will in parallel, continue to become fully ingrained into the wider business community. These relationships will allow British companies to enter fast growing markets like China, which recently committed nearly $300 billion to its renewable generation programme. China is already facing major challenges to integrate its current wind power and has had to curtail huge farms in Inner Mongolia and other northwestern provinces, which were built with the intention of exporting power to the more industrialised Chinese heartland. These challenges with integrating renewables are not restricted to China and have been experienced in other major markets like the US, EU and India.

“Current legislation did not have storage in mind or understand active network management when it was implemented decades ago, and regulations that cover storage aren’t fit for purpose.”

Are we now ready for a fully functioning electricity storage market in the UK? The answer is unfortunately no, but we’re close. The industry is moving forward but if we are to maximise storage and fully open up the UK market to get the highest return from deployed assets, then we must address the current market structure. Current legislation did not have storage in mind or understand active network management when it was implemented decades ago, and regulations that cover storage aren’t fit for purpose. Imagine trying to implement high speed internet and mobile using regulations designed for landlines telephones – this is where we are with the UK storage industry. Updating these outdated rules would provide a host of benefits to the electricity system, householders and the wider society. This potential next phase of the storage industry will give developers and businesses the opportunity to use storage for a suite of network services that can then be replicated in other markets and help position British firms as leaders to a $250 billion global storage market.

The UK storage industry is now standing at the fork in the road. Shall we passively allow great British innovations fail to meet their potential and missing out on growing a promising industry which can deliver thousands of jobs, while helping to deliver a truly low carbon economy? The answer should be no. If we define the role of storage on the UK electricity network now, it will at as a springboard for businesses and translate into huge opportunities for Britain.

The ESN’s upcoming annual symposium on Wednesday 25th January, will be bring together UK Government, the storage industry, and the business community to discuss the opportunity for storage. The event will include a keynote presentation from John Fiennes, Director of Energy Strategy and Markets for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who will present the Government’s plans for an energy storage roadmap and discuss the critical role storage has in improving the flexibility of our electricity grid. Energy storage has been declared one of the eight great technologies, its now time to make it one of the great opportunities for British business.

To learn more about the ESN’s upcoming annual symposium on Wednesday 25th January and to register for the event, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/esn-annual-symposium-2017-tickets-29297391286

This article was previously published on the Business Green website.