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Grid-scale energy storage viable in the UK

Grid-scale energy storage could become economically viable in the UK with rapid falls in the price of technology and appropriate regulatory support, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study.

By Kari Williamson

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that the breakthrough for energystorage could be closer than previously thought - thanks in large part to an expected drop in battery prices over the coming few years.

Other energy storage technologies which may also see significant growth include traditional approaches such as pumped hydro, and more novel approaches such as flywheels.

Although niche markets for energy storage are already viable in the UK today, mainly to relieve bottlenecks in the transmission and distribution of power, more substantial penetration of energy storage within the grid system will become economic within the next five years.

The key to making grid-scale energy storage viable, however, lies in the need to put in place an appropriate regulatory framework – something that has not yet been achieved.

Specific forecasts in the report are that energy storage will be able to meet the need for fast reserves and short-term operating reserves; two grid services purchased by National Grid to maintain grid stability, in 2014 and 2017 respectively; and that using storage to manage energy prices could make sense for large power consumers in the next year and for smaller ones by 2016.

Lithium-ion batteries

Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the most exciting development in storage worldwide is in the price of lithium-ion batteries.

In the long-term, as more and more electric vehicles are made and sold, the cost of batteries used in these vehicles will fall, and the technology could be directly transferable to the grid system as well.

Most grid-scale lithium-ion battery projects today cost more than US$1000/kWh, but with battery manufacturing capacity likely to outstrip supply in the short term, Bloomberg New Energy Finance is forecasting significant price drops in the next 36 months, towards US$600/kWh by 2015.

By 2020, the analyst predicts, energy storage could be in widespread use in the UK across the transmission and distribution systems, at customer sites and perhaps co-located with wind farms and solar parks.

Policy hurdles

The successful adoption of energy storage technologies over coming years depends critically on there being a supportive policy regime in place.

Some of the current regulatory rules prevent storage from being exploited fully to its potential. For instance, at present, regulated transmission and distribution utilities are not allowed to use energy storage to sell services to National Grid, even if there is an overall system benefit in doing so.

Shu Sun, Energy Storage Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says: “The prize may be within sight, but there are obstacles that need to be cleared before the UK can attain it.

"In the short term, we will see a small number of demonstration projects being built in the UK using funding from schemes such as the Low Carbon Networks fund. For more widespread adoption of storage in the transmission and distribution networks, appropriate mechanisms need to be built into RIIO (revenue equals incentives plus innovation and outputs), the new regulatory model which aims to promote innovation and the use of new technologies within the UK power networks."

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Comments

Andrew Jones said

30 January 2012
“It’s encouraging to see that the symbiotic relationship between energy storage and renewables is becoming more widely understood as a critical success factor in meeting the UK’s targets.

As the report rightly points out, the prize is within sight, but the lack of incentives for energy storage is a major obstacle. For example, in the marine industry, there are over 100 UK based suppliers competing against each other and the clock to qualify for the 5 Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) for marine renewables. In comparison there are only a handful of UK companies working on storage because there are no incentives for it. Government needs to recognise the critical role of energy storage in fostering renewables as a driver of green growth – and incentivise it accordingly

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