How can storing heat help to decarbonise energy systems?

Decarbonising heat is key to achieving net zero. Innovators from the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage are playing a vital role.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is, undoubtedly, the key element in our global drive to tackle climate change. The popular imagination is captured by a vision of polluting petrol and diesel vehicles yielding to a utopian vision of electric vehicles propelling us into a cleaner future. Power-hungry factories, offices and homes will be fed a lean-burn diet of electricity generated from renewable and low-carbon sources, such as solar and wind.

As important as electricity is, it only provides part of the overall energy demand within a country. Other energy vectors such as liquid fuels and natural gas typically provide greater amounts of delivered energy (see Figure 1). There is a significant contribution from transportation fuels and an even bigger demand associated with heat, which accounts for some 51% of global energy use.

Figure 1 – Gas, liquid fuels and electricity daily demand for Great Britain.

BCES’ collaboration with Jinhe Energy has already led to a world-first commercial plant, in Xinjiang, which harnesses wind power for heating. Funded by UK EPSRC and the Natural Science Foundation of China, the project has taken wind power that would otherwise have been wasted and converted it into heat. This thermal energy is then stored in cPCM materials and used for space heating on a commercial scale.

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