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The changing nature of the electricity grid in the UK – which is seeing an increasingly diverse mix of generators, often renewable and with smaller capacity – has resulted in increased attention being focused on energy storage and its potential for reducing emissions and costs. At the same time, energy storage, and in particular electricity storage in the form of lithium batteries, has become significantly cheaper. 

Potential savings from energy storage

A 2016 study by the Carbon Trust and Imperial College London concluded that

  • energy storage could result in savings of around £2.4 billion per year in 2030 for the UK electricity system and
  • if 50% of this saving was passed on to domestic customers, it could reduce the average electricity bill per household by around £50 per year.

The scope for energy storage

Official bodies and others have drawn attention to the scope for using energy storage. The National Infrastructure Commission report on Smart Power, published in March this year, included storage as one of the three technologies (together with interconnection and demand flexibility) that “could help fire a smart power revolution”.  The report concluded that the UK could become a world leader in making use of these technologies, but network operators were only beginning to explore the possibilities that storage may offer.

A written answer from DECC in April this year summarised the Government position:

A key objective of our £20m energy storage innovation programme is to strengthen investor confidence in energy storage at all scales. Overall, more than £80m of public sector controlled support has been committed to energy storage research, development and demonstration activities since 2012. This R&D activity has helped to raise the profile of storage and to demonstrate its capabilities to potential investors. In addition, my rt. hon. Friend Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer allocated at least £50m innovation funding to smart technologies, including storage, in the recent Budget.

Select Committee call for action

In a report last month, the select committee on energy and climate change concluded that storage technologies should be deployed at scale as soon as possible. The Committee also called for the Government to address urgently the archaic regulation and unfair ‘double-charging’ obstructing the deployment of energy storage in the UK:

The current regulatory conditions for storage are hindering its development. We welcome the Government’s consultative approach to this matter, but hope it will proceed with a sense of urgency. We urge the Government to publish its plans, as soon as possible, for exempting storage installations from balancing charges, and from all double-charging of network charges.

The Committee also recommended the Government carry out a study looking at the future of large scale storage in the UK.  The Committee supported network usage of storage but also raised some concerns about the impacts of allowing networks themselves to own and procure storage.

The Commons Library briefing on Energy Storage R&D provides further background on different technologies and meeting a variety of grid and supply needs.

Other briefings on energy and climate change issues are available on Parliament’s topic pages on energy and climate change.

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