In a study published on 18 January, Consultants Eunomia examined the potential of battery electricity storage in the UK.
Storage systems allow commercial electricity to be stored so that it can used at a later time. There are a wide range of storage measures – but at present the technology’s role in the power sector is largely limited to pumped hydro storage. This sees hydroelectric dams using turbines to pump water to their upper reservoirs when electricity is plentiful, and then releasing it to generate power when there is a lull.
Storage is particularly relevant to the growth of intermittent renewables generation like wind and solar power, allowing their electricity to be stored for use on cloudy or still days.
These systems offer significant cost-saving opportunities for businesses. By storing generation on-site they could effectively go “off-grid” during peak periods, and therefore avoid paying higher power prices.
By storing excess power, batteries can also help to prevent the congestion and voltage fluctuations on power lines that currently make reinforcement necessary. This could save consumers money on network infrastructure spending in the long term.
Eunomia’s report focused on lithium-ion batteries as these are already at a commercial scale, and easier to deploy than alternatives. Currently, the UK has 24MW across 24 sites, most of which are government-funded proof-of-concept projects. The largest is AES’s Kilroot array, which at present has a capacity of 10MW, but is to be expanded to 100MW.
Eunomia estimated that the UK’s battery capacity could increase dramatically over the next few years, hitting 1.6GW in 2020. This was based on a view that the costs of the technology would fall see the kind of sharp decreases as has been experienced in the solar sector over the past decade.
We are currently seeing a real surge in interest among policy-makers in the potential of energy storage, but significant hurdles remain.