Battery Institute for energy storage to drive growth in electric vehicle and renewable energy sectors

The first phase of a £246 million investment into battery technology in the UK is to be launched today, as part of a government drive towards a modern industrial strategy.

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Jul 24, 2017
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At a meeting in Birmingham, Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will outline the government’s plans for significant investment in battery technology, which is expected to benefit the renewable energy and electric vehicles sectors.

Clark has said that the aim is to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries, one of the cornerstones of a low carbon economy.

“For all our citizens to be able to look forward with confidence to a prosperous future, we need to plan to improve our ability to earn that prosperity. To enjoy a high and rising standard of living we must plan to be more productive than in the past,” Clark is expected to say of the strategy:

“Economists have pointed to what they have called a productivity puzzle in Britain. That we appear to generate less value for our efforts than, say, people in Germany or France.

“In other words, we have to work longer to get the same rewards. It’s not that we want – or need – people to work longer hours. It’s that we need to ensure that we find and seize opportunities to work more productively as a country, as cities and regions, as businesses and as individuals.”

Such an opportunity emerged earlier this year, when a government Green Paper on the Industrial Strategy received over 1,900 written responses during a three-month consultation period. Contributions ranged from new start-ups to big businesses and from organisations as diverse as the Premier League to the Women’s Engineering Society.

The first phase of the £246 million investment is being launched after analysis published last year suggested that deploying “flexible technologies” including batteries and smart grids could save the UK energy system £17-40 billion by 2050.

Commenting on the upcoming announcement, Darren Farrar, energy segment manager at Schneider Electric says: “As the world’s need for consistent, reliable energy grows, we need to embrace innovative ways of generating and making the most of the power at our disposal. Using energy storage to unlock extra potential in renewable energy is one way to do this and it’s encouraging to see the Government creating mechanisms for this to take shape.

“Within the next 15 years, the UK is expected to lose 39GW of generating capacity due to the government’s continuing programme of coal and nuclear power plant decommissioning. To meet this capacity challenge, providers and policy-makers across the globe are having to think outside the box. This is why excitement is building around the potential of battery storage,” he says.

For Farrar, today’s announcement shows that the government taking an important step forward, but there needs to be continued commitment to developing appropriate regulation concurrently to ensure that such investments do not go to waste. As an example, he highlights the need for research into how storage will work in relation to the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme.

“Existing wind farms that were built under the scheme receive ROCs via a meter fitted to the farm. Therefore, there will need to be a physical modification to the private network on any site in order to fit a battery and still be accredited under the scheme. This creates two immediate issues. A need for projects to be re-accredited in order to maintain membership of the ROC scheme and net-export of electricity through the ROC meter being reduced due to losses within the battery itself. Ofgem must clearly set out how it is going to deal with these re-accreditations and losses, and be pragmatic and pro-active in creating a positive environment for investors.”

Investments in battery technology are also expected to play a significant part in helping cut carbon emissions from transport, as traditional vehicles are replaced by electric cars and vans.

Commenting on this, Taavi Madiberk, CEO of Skeleton Technologies said: “With big European players such as Volvo and BMW already announcing a move to incorporate electric vehicles and a hybrid approach to energy consumption, the government's investment is a vital step forward to ensure that the UK can remain competitive in a market that is moving at a rapid pace.

“This is coupled with a need to optimise UK infrastructure to ensure it can support the surge in charging capabilities. We need to look to supporting technologies that complement battery power, such as ultracapacitor technology, to allow us to smooth the peak power needs and manage the growing demands on our energy infrastructure to ensure that we continue to benefit from a stable and reliable power source. The UK is already lagging behind the likes of Norway, Switzerland and France who are already starting to set industry benchmarks in this area.”

Go to the profile of Jade Taylor-Salazar

Jade Taylor-Salazar

Supplements editor , Engineering and Technology

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