The volatile international energy markets of the last 12 months have shown us in the UK that the only way to avoid reliance on such markets is through continued build out of renewables infrastructure, linked to an increasing amount of energy storage. Energy storage is a rapidly growing sector, but it’s not just for utility companies and large corporates – investing in energy storage can deliver tangible benefits for many enterprises and forward-thinking business owners are getting in on the act. Investing in energy storage facilities obviously has financial benefits, but it can also bolster a business in the face of unforeseen crises and help to balance the grid, as well as helping with individual and wider net zero efforts.
Storage will be essential
As sectors such as heat and transport move away from fossil fuels and towards electrification, there will be higher electricity demand peaks, while electricity generation will become even more variable as levels of wind and solar generation increase. Currently, on the windiest days, National Grid ESO is forced to cap the amount of power coming from intermittent sources, with the owners being paid to turn them off. In 2022, a year characterised by extraordinary rises in energy prices, the UK spent £215m on turning windfarms off, and then another £717m turning on gas power plants to replace the lost wind power on days when the wind was not blowing. The result was an extra 1.5 million tonnes of CO2.
One of the ways to deal with this surplus energy is to increase demand and either use or store it during times of peak renewables generation. This can be done by retrofitting or co-locating battery storage systems with renewables projects. Batteries can soak up cheap renewable energy when it’s abundant, and discharge it when congestion has eased.
Renewable energy company, Dulas, installed its first battery storage project over 25 years ago, and has been helping businesses to harness renewable energy ever since. Donald Speirs, Business Development Manager, commented, “In some cases, there are tangible commercial benefits for business owners having battery storage on site. Energy storage can be used to lower consumption from the grid at peak times and the grid also financially rewards those who can reduce consumption and/or feed into the grid within a short space of time. Battery storage can help a business become more energy resilient and, if linked to generation on site, it helps the business to operate in a greener way. We have also seen that optimisation technologies and finance can now be combined so that owners start to benefit immediately from having storage on site, without having to take an immediate financial hit. With the pace of renewable energy generation continuing and the growth of other systems that put demand on the grid, such as EVs, we can only see the demand and value of energy storage systems increasing further.”
In addition to generation, owners of hybrid projects can facilitate energy shifting applications with variable capacity and consumption patterns, allowing developers to shift dispatch to times of higher prices. Energy technology company, GridBeyond, created the world’s first hybrid battery and demand network, and are a leading provider of demand side response services and battery optimisation technologies.
Chris Smith, Asset Development Director, GridBeyond explains, “A range of grid-balancing services provide opportunities to earn revenue by supplying stored energy to the ESO. There are also opportunities to trade energy from battery storage on the wholesale market to capitalise on fluctuating prices. But with multiple markets on which to trade, the landscape for battery storage is a complex arena. However, understanding how and where you can stack revenues and provide an automated response is the key to proving the business case and unlocking maximum revenue from battery assets. Trading is already a big part of the value stack and, for some projects, represents the majority of income generated. This means real-time and continual modelling, that takes into account variables including weather variability and overall demand uncertainty, is required to assess the most likely range of returns, allowing you to place your asset into the best available market.”
The energy storage sector is growing rapidly as the imperatives of net zero become clearer and investors are increasingly recognising that projects can be cost-effective and profitable. National Grid estimates that by 2050, we will have 35GW of battery storage across the whole of the UK (National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios) and RenewableUK reported last year that the battery storage pipeline had doubled in 12 months. The benefits of energy storage and flexible generation are well worth exploring.