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The Role of Battery Storage in the Energy Transition






Shifting from fossil-fuel based energy generation to renewable power is key to the UK’s net zero ambitions. As a whole, this process is referred to as the energy transition.

Lithium-ion batteries will play a key role in this transition, forming the backbone of a new energy generation mix and addressing the issues of variability and instability associated with many forms of renewable energy generation, particularly solar and wind.

The Shift to Green Energy

While the energy transition is most obviously associated with the need for decarbonisation, done correctly it offers solutions to all three aspects of the energy trilemma: making the UK’s energy supply more affordable, sustainable, and reliable. Ultimately, an energy mix built around renewable generation eliminates the issues surrounding volatile prices and fears of security of supply that come with an over-reliance on gas generation. The energy price crisis that has sent costs spiralling for businesses and homes alike for around a year now shows all too clearly the risk of the UK’s reliance on gas for base load generation, particularly as we have so little of our own gas production. The UK’s lack of storage facilities for natural gas only exacerbates the problem.

In contrast, wind and solar is plentiful, isn’t impacted by volatile global markets, and the UK has the potential to access both. However, they are not without their own problems. Primarily, the issue is one of inflexibility; we can’t turn the sun and wind up like we would a fossil fuel power plant, and periods of plentiful generation during optimal conditions don’t always coincide with periods of peak demand, leaving National Grid with a difficult job in trying to balance supply with demand.

The Role of Battery Storage

Battery storage will play a vital role in balancing out this varying supply and demand. The UK is seeing a record surge in the rollout of grid-scale storage: year-on-year installations jumped 70% between 2020 and 2021. The size is also increasing rapidly, from an average of 5MW in 2017 to between 30 and 50MW in 2021.

Continuing this rapid rollout will be critical to the UK making a success of the energy transition. By using energy storage, the base load issues presented by inflexible renewable generation can be solved. During periods of high generation, such as windy, sunny days, excess power can be readily stored and then accessed at a later point when demand is higher, with peak demand periods typically falling during the evening in winter when solar is much less able to contribute.

For individual organisations and businesses, batteries can perform a similar role on a smaller scale for a business site. This allows electricity, either generated on-site or purchased from the grid during off-peak times when the cost is lower, to be stored and then used when grid prices are at a premium, or when energy-intensive processes are being carried out.

The role that battery storage will play in balancing the grid also opens new commercial opportunities for end users. While grid-scale storage will play a key role, distributed storage will also have a part to play by engaging with grid balancing mechanisms that supports the grid to keep a consistent frequency or provide additional capacity in a crunch. In return for engaging with these mechanisms, end users receive payments for making their assets available to help balance the grid when called upon.

Find out more about generating revenue from the grid with a battery here

Generating Revenue

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