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Wednesday, 02 March 2016 11:02

Low carbon energy storage will thrive when barriers geared for centralised removed

Energy storage in the UK will usher in a low carbon economy but is being held back by a regulatory system geared towards large centralised energy, reveal The Carbon Trust in a report co-written with Imperial College London.

Their new report, launched at the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference, outlines significant cost savings for the UK electricity system, should the potential for energy storage be realised. The impact of which could deliver savings of up to £50 a year on an average consumer energy bill through a system wide saving of up to £2.4bn a year by 2030.

The report was collaboratively funded by three major utilities, E.ON, SSE and Scottish Power, as well as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Scottish Government. The analysis, carried out over 12 months by the Carbon Trust and Imperial College London, is the most comprehensive review to date of the benefits of storage at a UK- system level.

energy storage carbon trustAndrew Lever, Director of Innovation at the Carbon Trust says: "Energy storage has long been seen as a panacea for a low carbon energy sector in the UK, offering a suite of services to balance the system, make electricity networks more efficient and help the UK to meet its carbon targets at the lowest cost. But storage turns conventional knowledge on its head as it doesn't fit neatly into existing regulatory frameworks, which have been designed around an energy system where power is supplied to consumers from large centralised power stations.

"We have now reached a stage where the technologies are looking promising, but will face challenges in deployment due to an outdated market framework. An urgent rethink is needed so we can address and overcome the broken value chain of energy storage, which is essential if Britain is to provide low carbon energy at the lowest cost to the consumer."

The report assesses the wider benefits of flexibility solutions for a future UK electricity system, examining the impact storage might have to bill payers across three future energy scenarios out to 2030. These include the National Grid's 'No Progression' and 'Gone Green' scenarios, as well as a third scenario developed specifically for this report showing a least-cost pathway for the UK to meet its 2030 carbon emissions reduction target.

Under the National Grid's 'Gone Green' scenario the addition of energy storage can unlock system cost savings of up to £2.4 billion a year by 2030. And if just 50 percent of this saving was passed on to domestic customers it could reduce the average household electricity bill by up to £50 a year.

On a least-cost pathway, deploying storage could deliver cost savings of up to £7 billion in 2030. £2 billion of this comes from the deployment of storage, with a further £5 billion primarily from improved use of existing generation assets and optimised and reduced investment in new low carbon generation assets.

The range of potential benefits provided by energy storage includes absorbing "wrong time" energy, then releasing it to meet demand, to help support capacity constraints and to balance the influx of intermittent and, or inflexible low carbon technologies onto the grid, plus avoiding expense associated with reinforcing assets and adding new capacity.

If the UK addresses current regulations to create a fair and transparent market, these reduced costs and increased resilience translate into cheaper household energy bills. However, the report finds that despite the technology readiness and the significant societal benefits of energy storage, the split of its benefits across network stakeholders makes it difficult for a single one to develop a business case. An incompatible market structure has reduced the commercial viability of storage for investors by increasing risk and reducing revenue potential.

The analysis shows that many of the necessary regulatory reforms are likely to be cost neutral and will require no additional funding from the government. Until the current market conditions are addressed to reflect more accurately the value that storage can provide to the network, the UK risks a future under-deployment of flexibility solutions preventing the capture of the systems benefits identified in the report.

The report calls for a clear and comprehensive strategic approach to energy storage and other forms of flexibility.

To read the full report visit: www.carbontrust.com/energystorage