Subscribe to our newsletter
Energy Storage Summit: A snapshot of the UK energy storage space

What is claimed to be the UK's first Powerwall battery. Image: Solar Plants.

This week, at the Energy Storage Summit in London on Thursday, Solar Media brings together a broad range of stakeholders as the country goes through some defining moments in infrastructure and energy policy. Here are some interesting recent developments in the space – and who you might expect to meet if you make it to Twickenham Stadium.

Residential: Let battle commence...

In the residential space, market leaders like Germany’s Sonnen and Tesla have spotted niches that could grow into something major, alongside UK companies like heat battery maker Sunamp, self-consumption PV specialists Wattstor and many others.  

As you have probably heard a few dozen times by now, the UK has more than 700,000 household PV systems presenting attractive retrofit opportunities. Beyond that, it will still be possible to sell PV-plus-storage systems to households, but will be a question of self-consuming solar power to save rather than make money.

Two home grown companies, Moixa and Powervault make battery storage systems that both claim will behave smarter as part of the network. Powervault is crowdfunding to raise £1 million (US$1.46 million) to make systems that respond to electricity pricing signals.

In Moixa’s case, several hundred units have already been deployed under a government trial. The boxes act in concert as one to help the network lower peak demand and could provide other network services as a sort of virtual power plant. Sonnen, Tesla’s collaborator SolarCity and others are trying similar, connected or aggregated system trials elsewhere.

Many have said that when the market really gets going, it will be as competitive – perhaps even as bloodthirsty – as anything dreamed up in Game of Thrones. We may have had a hint of that already, if the ongoing and unseemly spat between Ecotricity and Tesla is any indication.

After a row about EV charge networks and a bizarre claim by Tesla – which was thrown out by the Advertising Standards Authority – that Ecotricity is not the UK’s greenest electricity supplier, Ecotricity CEO Dale Vince has said the company will go head-to-head with Elon Musk later this year, launching its own storage system.

Moixa’s CEO Simon Daniel will present findings from the DECC trial at the summit.  

Utility-scale: Big Battery and frequency response tender carry weight of expectations

The large-scale segment has been started up with a number of pilot deployments. One example is the so-called Big Battery, also known as Smarter Network Storage.

While it is no longer the biggest battery system in the country, surpassed by a 10MW project in Northern Ireland, the Big Battery is being watched with great interest. Energy-Storage.News has reported on the latest from the project.

The country’s sole TSO National Grid is now in the process of tendering for some 200MW of enhanced frequency response services (EFR), with the tender window opening this summer and results to be published in late August.

Developers and system providers including those with experience of comparable projects in other countries such as Korea’s Kokam, Renewable Energy Systems, Belectric and NEC Energy Solutions have shown significant interest.

Georgina Dingley of AMT Sybex and Adriana Laguna-Estopier of UK Power Networks will be among speakers presenting on the Smarter Network Storage trial and utility-scale storage at the London event.  

Energy Storage Summit: A snapshot of the UK energy storage space

The event forms the final day of Solar Media's Clean Energy Summit. Image: Solar Media / Jo-Anne Duff.

Commercial scale: Beyond CSR and good publicity

The case is growing for businesses and communities to get a handle on their energy consumption with energy storage. It’s now about teaching clients the value of self-consumption and matching generation to demand.

Today at the Clean Energy Summit which precedes the storage event, representatives from Coca Cola, Heineken and others spoke about procuring, using and promoting clean energy. Perhaps inspired by the examples of tech companies like Google and Apple which have started “greening” the supply of energy used at their datacentres, the commercial space is ripe for positive change.   

On the other side of the coin, more than 5,000 community energy groups now exist in the UK, springing up over the past couple of years. These two different kinds of “collective action” could enormously boost the case for storage in the UK.  

Ian Chilvers of power and energy management specialists Smart Power Systems will be presenting on several commercial-scale projects using storage, including installations to help system hosts avoid feed-in limitations to the grid.

Energy Storage Summit: A snapshot of the UK energy storage space

UK minister Amber Rudd recently visited the US offices of UK-headquartered energy storage battery maker Cumulus. Image: Cumulus.

Policy & regulation: Wait and see period coming to an end soon

It’s all up in the air, or to use a sporting metaphor, there’s a lot still to play for.

The government has identified energy storage as a possible technology for export and through various channels including its Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has committed to hearing the views of industry before making any definitive pronouncements.

More stringent time-of-day electricity pricing using smart metering technology could unlock a true solar self-consumption market has been hinted at, for example, but is yet to become reality.

Despite what many perceive to be lukewarm support for solar and other low carbon technologies at best, the energy storage industry has asked to be unshackled from current regulatory barriers rather than ask for subsidies and this could keep it out of the way of the government’s ideological axe.

Having said that, projects such as the Big Battery and Moixa’s trial deployments have received significant funding through the Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF), set up by national energy market regulator Ofgem. The LCNF trials technologies ranging from renewable heat and EV chargers to energy storage worth £500 million total, including 13.2 million funding for the Smarter Network Storage project. It is to be hoped that results and findings from these projects are used wisely.

Solar Media's Energy Storage Summit takes place this Thursday, 28 April, at Twickenham Rubgy Stadium, London. The event - featuring 40 high-level speakers and three streams (residential, commercial and utility scale) - will address all the key issues related to storage deployment. It will be followed by the exclusive Energy Storage 100 networking and celebration event in the evening.,

Tags: solar-plus-storage, distributed generation, britain, events, frequency regulation