With the transition towards Net-Zero, our increasing reliance on weather dependent energy generation will leave a significant gap in the UK’s energy supply without continuing to use existing fossil fuel reserves.
Increasingly the UK’s electricity supply is reliant upon gas and diesel reciprocating engines to plug the gap when renewable generation is limited due to weather conditions. Short-term engine operating cycles of less than ten minutes result in very low electrical efficiencies and high levels of localised air pollution.
Market uncertainty has slowed the roll-out of battery energy storage assets which are required to replace gas and diesel engines in Fast Response Contracts. Battery energy storage technology (Li-ion) is limited to operating periods of less than 2 hours and are generally unable to access around 50% of the installed capacity due to technical constraints.
Reduced renewable energy generation in excess of 2 hours is reliant on gas and diesel reciprocating engines due to CCGT and Nuclear power generation availability at short notice. Further increases of up to 8GW in electrical demand by 2030 is expected due to the forecasted growth in electric powered vehicles. Electrical storage using pumped hydro in the UK has lacked investment and electro-mechanical technologies are still in their infancy, lacking industry and government focus.
Around 80% of the UK’s heat demand is currently supplied by natural gas which is unlikely to be compatible with the Government’s ‘Net-Zero 2050’ target. The expected growth in heat pump deployment for hot water and space heating will add significant electrical demand on the system particularly during periods of low solar electrical energy availability. Although the efficiency of heat pumps is well proven, retrofitting this technology within older properties will require further investment in improving insulation and heat storage.
Immediate and substantial sums of government and private investment (through research, development and guaranteed market pricing) is needed to transform the current capacity for future energy storage to one that is fit for purpose in 30 years’ time. Without urgent action, the UK is on the path to missing the Net-Zero target by 2050 despite how much green energy we can generate. Current storage models alone, are not robust enough or meet the economies of scale needed for future energy demands and generation scenarios.The outcomes of this report advise that in order to drive the investment requirements as stated:
• BEIS and Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) should convene a Working Group focussed on analytical and modelling frameworks that include thermal, mobility and power services, to assess the potential contribution of energy storage and its technical characteristics.
• BEIS and Ofgem should convene Working Groups to develop strategies which will attract and secure private investment in infrastructure across the UK network.
The latest report from the Supergen Network+ Co-Director Dr Jonathan Radcliffe & the Energy Research Partnership highlights the need for immediate & substantial investment in Energy Storage for the UK to not miss its net zero target.
Please find the full report here.