Frequency response storage heating up in the UK


The U.K. Energy and Climate Change Committee, a parliamentary group including MPs from all parties currently in the UK Parliament, published its first report from the current session on Low Carbon Network Infrastructure on Friday.

The report examined the three ways to tackle the variability in renewable power generation: energy storage, demand side response (DSR) and electricity interconnectors with foreign energy markets.

With regards to energy storage specifically, the Committee reports that “the current regulatory conditions for storage are hindering its development” and has therefore asked the government to proceed with its storage consultations “with a sense of urgency,” while also “exempting storage installations from balancing charges, and from all double-charging of network charges.”

On the DSR front, the report asks for a more detailed strategy that will unlock the DSR potential and offer pathways to new business models.

The Committee is also supportive of significant interconnector expansions because it can help to balance a low-carbon network. However, the report says, the UK is likely to be a net importer of electricity, therefore, aside from the interconnection plans, the government should also develop a clear strategy for the development of sufficient low-carbon generation capacity that can be exported.

Overall, the U.K. Energy and Climate Change Committee appears to believe that the U.K.’s current electricity infrastructure and policy regulations are not fit to tackle the modern energy issues, while also supporting a new vision for the country’s energy system.

National Grid should be broken up

The main headlines from the report came from its controversial recommendation for the National Grid to be broken up.

The National Grid is a private company listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company, along with its subsidiaries, has varying roles in ownership and operation of the network infrastructure across Great Britain. It owns and maintains the physical electricity transmission network in England; owns and operates the gas transmission network in Great Britain; acts as Transmission System Operator (TSO) for the whole of Great Britain; develops, owns and operates much of the UK’s electricity interconnections; and plays a role in administering the U.K.’s capacity market.

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However, the Committee suggests, the combination of these roles leads to potential conflicts of interests that can undermine the development of a low-carbon network infrastructure.

One example given by the Committee is as followed; “National Grid could overstate capacity requirements, which would generate a higher clearing price in the Capacity Market—perhaps for its interconnectors. The fundamental issue here is that National Grid could act in a way that inefficiently advantages interconnection over other balancing tools, such as storage and DSR.”

National Grid to tender 200MW of enhanced frequency

Nevertheless, there are positive developments regarding energy storage in the U.K.

National Grid and the RES Group, a global developer of renewable energy and energy storage systems headquartered in England, announced recently they are working on the first battery energy storage system to provide a dynamic frequency response service in sub-second timescales in Great Britain.

The two companies have signed a four year contract that will see renewable energy systems provide 20 MW of frequency response from battery storage. “The services delivered by RES’ battery storage systems will provide cost effective frequency response to the grid within one second of the detection of a frequency deviation. The battery storage systems will be fully operational within 18 months,” said the RES Group.

National Grid and the RES Group have been working together to design the frequency response service since 2014, a collaboration that has also helped National Grid to design its upcoming tender for 200 MW of enhanced frequency response.

Speaking at the European Union-funded Grid and Storage workshop in London in March, Dr Cathy McClay, head of commercial operation at National Grid, told the attendants that the company has been overwhelmed by the tender response, which has attracted 68 submissions from all over the world (corresponding to about 1.3 GW of storage projects) competing for 200 MW available.

A spokesperson for National Grid told pv magazine that the tender will take place in the summer and the winners will be announced towards the end of the year.

pv magazine understands that National Grid is offering four-year contracts, the same as the 20 MW RES storage project, however, the company initially wanted shorter contracts. Some participants at the London workshop complained that shorter contracts do not help storage developers, because storage is capital intensive and developers need a longer term commitment.

Nevertheless, Adam Sims, senior account manager at National Grid, said the 20 MW RES battery storage project "and the forthcoming enhanced frequency response service will support the network as we transition to a generation mix with greater levels of low cost renewable energy."

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