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Industry joins drive to develop new ways to store electricity

Policy makers, government officials and industry leaders gathered at ICE HQ last week to discuss the potential of ‘electricity storage’ as a way of helping Britain achieve its increasing ­electricity demands and transition to a low-carbon economy.

A report launched by ICE - Electricity Storage: Realising the Potential - has set out the benefits of electricity storage. It says the technology - if applied - could help electricity grid operators ease the tightening of capacity margins of the electricity grid, meet increasing peak demand for electricity, and manage the intermittency of renewables.

The report identifies the regulatory and policy barriers - cutting red tape - as a way of helping to encourage investment and deployment of electricity storage. It says a mix of electricity storage technologies will be needed to ensure the efficient distribution and generation of electricity, and meet the projected surge in demand for electricity.

One of the ICE report authors, Philipp Grünewald, a research fellow at Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said that storage had the potential to help solve the ‘energy trilemma’ - the challenge of producing secure, affordable and clean energy.

“Ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December, leaders from across the world are now looking to engineers for practical ways to respond to climate change.

“It is time to realise the potential of electricity storage as a better way of operating the electricity system, and recognise it as a driver of skilled jobs and innovation,” he said.

Sam Balch, Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Smart Energy Team lead, explained how new data and communications technologies had created an opportunity to “do things differently,” with smarter and more flexible ­solutions allowing government and industry to respond to ­challenges in a more cost effective way.

He welcomed the ICE’s report as a “useful contribution to an evolving policy area” and said attempts were being made by both DECC and industry to “level the playing field” by removing regulatory barriers. But he said questions around utilisation and ownership of storage still remained.

Recognising electricity storage as a means of balancing surges and troughs in the power network, Shadow DECC minister, Alan Whitehead, said that storage “is not just an interesting innovation for the future but needs to come to the fore in the near term.”

Judith Ross, head of network regulation policy at Ofgem, suggested that current legislation and licensing arrangements did not fully apply to electricity storage capabilities and agreed that greater clarity would help encourage investment in the necessary infrastructure.

She added that commercial arrangements and industry led codes were particularly important in making deployment of electricity storage a reality.

ICE director general, Nick Baveystock, who chaired the discussion, commented that in contrast to other types of ­infrastructure, where consumers expect a level of variation such as transport, society expects the electricity infrastructure to be constant and unfailing.

Baveystock also noted that while the evolution of storage technologies allows for better deployment of electricity and additional storage capability to manage supply and demand, the current regulatory framework has not kept pace with technological developments.

  • Read the full Electricity Storage: Realising the ­Potential report here

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