Reduce Your Carbon Emissions Using Battery Energy Storage

A battery energy storage system (BESS) has enormous potential when it comes to an organisation’s carbon reduction strategy. As the cornerstone of a site’s electrical infrastructure, a BESS helps to improve the performance of existing low-carbon technologies, such as on-site generation, as well as facilitating the installation of new technologies that might otherwise encounter issues around grid constraints. However, this is only one aspect of a modern battery storage installation, which uses smart control software and artificial intelligence to ensure that a site is using sourcing, generating, storing and using electricity as efficiently, in terms of both cost and carbon emissions, as possible. 

Making the Most of the UK’s Energy Mix 

This week saw the news that installed wind power in the UK has overtaken fossil fuels, with 27.9GW of capacity edging out 27.7GW of gas generation. Additionally, total carbon emissions from electricity production dipped to less than ten million tonnes. Previously, this had only been achieved during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns. The UK’s energy mix is getting cleaner, good news for any business concerned about their own Scope 2 emissions.  

Since 2013 carbon intensity, the metric used to measure how clean grid supplied electricity is, has steadily fallen, until the energy crisis caused a slight increase during 2021 and 2022. This is great news for any business that has invested in electrification to replace fossil fuel processes or is considering doing so in the future. The lower the grid’s carbon intensity, the more impact their investment in cleaner technologies will have on their net zero ambitions. 

However, the UK’s continued reliance on gas generation, primarily to provide baseload and meet periods of peak demand, means that this carbon intensity can vary substantially, even on an hourly basis. National Grid ESO provide a dashboard that tracks carbon intensity in real time, demonstrating how substantial this difference can be. Factors including weather, time of day and, particularly, time of year means that carbon intensity rises and falls throughout the day, typically being higher during peak demand periods, typically in the early evening during the winter months, and then drops lower overnight.  

With this information to hand, a battery energy storage system can be used to substantially reduce carbon emissions linked to electricity consumption simply by charging at times when carbon intensity is low, such as overnight, then tapping into that stored energy for use during periods when grid carbon intensity peaks.  

For a 1MW BESS, charging overnight when carbon intensity is lower would save a conservative estimate of 10,000kg of CO2 compared to charging during the day, given monthly averages of carbon intensity. There is the potential for this to be substantially higher in the battery is only charged during periods of the lowest possible intensity and discharged during the highest. As peak carbon intensity also typically falls at the same time as peak demand, particularly during the winter, many battery customers may well already be using this technique to reduce their energy costs. This means the reduce carbon emissions is effectively a welcome side effect. 

While using a battery to reduce carbon emissions linked to grid intensity is effective and can be achieved alongside other uses for battery storage, it only scratches the surface of the technology’s potential for saving carbon. This includes storing power generated on-site for later use, rather than relying on grid supply, as well as incorporating new, low-carbon technologies such as EV charging and replacing potentially inefficient uninterruptible power supplies with a more efficient, flexible alternative technology. Ultimately, a battery can be combined with on-site generation to transform a site into a smart microgrid, with the potential to operate independently of the grid and its changing levels of carbon intensity. 

Find out more about how battery storage can save you money and carbon emissions here