The U.K.’s energy storage market is gathering pace, expecting to repeat the recent solar PV success albeit in totally different terms. This is the leading message of the Energy Storage: The New Market Dynamic event organized by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) this week in London.
Large-scale systems already competitive; small-scale in 2017
REA’s event coincided with the publication of its report titled Development of Decentralised Energy and Storage Systems in the UK, prepared for REA by KPMG. The report expands on the main trends relating to the development of decentralized energy and storage as well as the current barriers to its introduction.
According to the report, "large scale decentralised energy resources, especially demand response and storage, are already economic in certain circumstances." The barriers to large storage systems are not technical but regulatory, "although barriers to securing funding may remain," the report adds.
Residential storage systems in the U.K. also raise prospects. KPMG’s analysis shows that small scale domestic and business investors who installed PV systems in 2015 and earlier supported by a feed-in tariff (FIT), complementing existing panels by adding new storage may be an economically attractive investment from around 2017.
UK to add 1 GW of storage by 2020
Marianne Boust, a principal analyst within the power technologies team at the research consultancy IHS, told the event that although the three most important markets for storage today internationally are the USA, Japan and South Korea (the three combining account for 59% of the total global installations in 2015 and 2016), IHS forecasts the U.K. to also become an important player in storage.
"For small investors, like residential PV owners, we believe it is already worth to add storage because it can lead to significant reduction on the overall electricity bills for the years these systems will be operational," said Boust.
And although residential and small commercial storage systems grab most of the attention currently, ancillary services via storage system solutions will also pick up soon, she added. The industry is also anticipating eagerly the announcement by the National Grid (the UK’s transmission system owner and operator) in the next few weeks of a grid balancing service that provides faster frequency response. Frequency control markets for storage systems will also offer opportunities.
According to IHS forecasts, the U.K will add 1 GW of storage facilities by 2020. The main drivers are the high renewable energy systems penetration, the rising retail electricity prices, the government spending significant sums in storage R&D, a well established network of solar installers and the launch of a frequency regulation tender.
On the other hand, Boust argued, the UK’s policy uncertainty, the dominant role of thermal generators, the capital cost requirements and the lack of funding mechanisms are great inhibitors to the UK storage market kicking off.
Level playing field
This is the list of changes that decentralised energy stakeholders in the U.K. are seeking. REA’s senior advisor on solar, storage and electric vehicles Ray Noble told the event that while the U.K.’s solar PV market was stimulated by subsidy schemes, the market today has changed, departing from the old model. So the question, Noble asked, is do we need today a subsidy for storage? And can we develop a storage market without a subsidy?
Furthermore, Noble added, in the post-subsidy era, many PV businesses will most possibly leave the UK, but the ones remaining will be good businesses that will drive the storage market too.
Simon Virley, of the KPMG, told a panel discussion at the event that neither the technology nor the cost are a barrier for energy storage deployment in the UK today. Instead, his view was that the remaining barriers are consumer engagement and the absence of the right storage regulation. To solve this, Virley added, firstly the sector needs to devise new business models that include storage and are easily comprehensive by the consumers. Secondly, the storage stakeholders need to make it clear to the politicians that their quests are not about money but about removing regulatory barriers.
Joe Warren, managing director of Powervault, a London-based company that manufactures a fully-integrated home energy storage system, certainly agreed. "We ask for the value that is in the market to be redistributed in a more fair way. This is what we ask, not subsidies, and if we frame it that way we have more chances [to pass our message across to politicians]."